I think that's why I sometimes envy Christian celebrations. I went to a Victory celebration once, and found it very peaceful. It doesn't hurt that the Christians I know are generally warm people so I always thought it was nice to join in on their celebrations.
A friend has been inviting my wife and I to join their celebration of The Feast in Suntec City, but it never really worked out because we had games scheduled on Sundays, and I had work on Saturdays.
A couple of weeks ago, everything lined up and we were able to commit and attend.
Attending The Feast was a welcome change. They shared personal experiences and sang songs I didn't know, and while they shared inspiring stories, their words didn't move me as much as it appeared to move others. However, there was a strange energy in the room that filled me. I don't usually subscribe to supernatural experiences, but I kid you not when I say that there was something in that room.
I believe that it was a direct effect of similarly driven individuals collectively making a leap of faith. The songs were just mere expressions, but everyone, at least in those moments, has offered everything to God. This did not happen because they needed something from God, but rather because they wanted to express their gratitude to Him by trusting Him completely.
I was pleasantly surprised; most of the people I know become religious when they need something from a higher being, or if they feel like they need to give back because of what they have done in the past. Others are too religious for me to relate with; they speak too much about their faith as if they have nothing more to do than to pray every second that I'm not talking to them. That Sunday, I was with regular people who got together to give thanks to God through songs.
I can't stress "togetherness" enough. Even if I am with my family in a Church, it sometimes feels like we're motivated by different things. My wife and I attend mass together, but despite so many people around, it never felt like we were praying "together" with other people in the parish. We prayed in unison because there were prompts, but we weren't all "together."
During The Feast, there was a feeling of serenity, warmth, and belongingness I have never experienced in a Catholic mass.
Later in the celebration, the speaker asked everyone to somewhat "share the love" this Christmas season and walk around to hug everyone in the room. I literally knew two people there, and another one by association because my wife worked with him. Still, I went around and hugged the most number of strangers in my entire life. I didn't feel forced, nor did I feel like the others were forced to hug a stranger like me. There were a lot of warm hugs that day.
After The Feast was a Sunday mass celebrated by one of the nicer priests in St. Theresa, Father Romeo. Having had The Feast prior made me more prepared to hear mass than I have ever been in my life.
Last Sunday, we went to attend regular mass again. The feeling of "community" wasn't there. I'm thinking maybe it would be different if I served, but then during the Feast, there was a sense of community even if I wasn't serving.
I'm not comparing because I am unmotivated as a Catholic. I just want to figure out what is missing in Catholic masses that there are less and less men who heed the call of priesthood, and why chapels are only full during holiday masses.
I think the parishes are lacking a sense of community despite their best efforts to build one. The diversity of the people in the community also makes it difficult to create one. I'm thankful to have learned about The Feast, because I think it emulates the energy felt in a Christian celebration and integrates it into a Catholic setting. I appreciate what they do, and I hope to join in on more celebrations with them.
Reflecting on Faith
Faith, I think, requires a certain surrender. It's not supposed to be taught and drilled into the minds of people, young or old. I don't think it's necessarily bad to teach the young about faith, but to impose one's perspective on them even when they reach the age where they can discern for themselves is almost like brainwashing, I feel like.
This experience helped me feel that certain surrender. It came at the most appropriate time. At the time I was with The Feast, I almost felt selfish because I was thinking about my personal struggles. Yes, I thank God for every day that I wake up, but during that time, I felt I didn't thank Him enough.
It's easy to say "Jesus, take the wheel," but it's another thing to let Him. After all, if you know how to drive, you tend to be uneasy whenever someone else drives for you, especially if it's your car. It's not easy to give up control of something you're responsible for; be it your life or your car.
That day with The Feast taught me that taking a leap of faith isn't just an expression, and the surrender that is felt is euphoric.
Surrendering control doesn't solve everything, but it helps give one a clear mind as to how one would deal with what is not yet.
I have my worries and uncertainties about the year to come, but because of the timely coincidence of us attending that particular celebration, I feel like everything's going to be alright.