by Josh and Jesica Kapika
September 15th is the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. On this day the Church remembers and recognizes the great sorrow of our Blessed Mother, but we should also recognize her courageous actions on one of the deepest and darkest days of her life.
The Blessed Mother, from the moment she herd the prophecy of Simeon, knew that she would have to go through great sorrow as the Mother of Jesus. She understood that her only responsibility in life was to raise and care for her son, the Son of God. Even though she knew that she would have to endure so much pain, she accepted willingly her role in the story of salvation. On the day her son was condemned to death, she chose to follow Jesus all the way to the hill of Calvary. She witnessed her son beaten and forced to carry a heavy cross. She stood there in the midst of the crowd as he laid naked on the cross as the nails were driven into his hands and feet. She could have stayed hidden with all the other disciples. She could have run back to Nazareth never to be heard of again, but instead she stood at the foot of the cross crying in anguish.
There is no doubt that we have all gone through some sort of pain or sorrow at some point in our lives, but only a few have had the same paralyzing feeling that Mary felt, that day along the Via Dolorosa (the painful way). Regardless of how much sorrow she was dealing with as she witnessed the passion of her son, she chose to continue along the way of the cross. She stood by him amongst the crowd in great despair all the way to end. How many of us have the same courage as our Blessed Mother?
Our Blessed Mother needed to show us that nothing should ever keep us from following Christ. How many times in our lives has fear of suffering or sorrow kept us from living for Christ? We all know it’s not easy being his disciple, but is difficulty ever a reason to stop following him? We have to ask ourselves. If Mary, even in her deepest sorrow can choose to follow Christ, then why can’t we? Our beloved Mother has left us no reason to ever back down from our responsibilities as Christian disciples. She knows how hard it is to follow her son, but she also knows what joy awaits us if we do.
The great thing about being a Christian and being human is that we have every opportunity to make things right, to do them the right way. If you are going through anything that is keeping you from doing more for Christ, it’s not too late to follow the example of Mary. We can all look to our Blessed Mother in times of sorrow and take from her the painful lesson of the Way of the Cross. Take courage and fear not!!! Trust in the Lord’s promise and remember that even in the most difficult moments of our lives, there is never a good enough reason to stop following the Lord.
Josh and Jesica Kapika are long time active members of EPIC Ministry serving at different capacities to help promote the overall mission of EPIC Ministry. Josh is currently serving as the Coordinator of the Central Oahu Chapter and Vice President on the Board of Directors for EPIC Ministry. Josh is also the Pastoral Associate for St. Michael’s Parish in Waialua, and he also serves as the Grand Knight and State Family Director for the Knights of Columbus. Jesica is on EPIC Ministry staff serving as the Vice Director of Operations, and she also works full-time as the Administrative Assistant to the Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent to Hawaii Catholic Schools. Jesica also serves as the Vice Chair for the Woman’s Auxiliary for the Knights of Columbus. Both of them devoting much time, energy, and love in serving the Lord, their communities, and modeling discipleship and servant leadership. They are celebrating their 3rd year Marriage Anniversary this coming November.
by Matt and Johana Copas
The Immaculate Conception refers to “Mary being enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role.” The angel Gabriel at the moment of the announcement salutes her as “full of grace”. Mary, “full of grace” through God, was redeemed at the moment of her Conception. Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854: The most Blessed Virgin Mary, was from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God. In view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, preserved exempt from all stain of original sin” (Ineffabilis Deus).
For us as members of the Catholic faith, the Immaculate Conception is not just any feast day that we celebrate, but it is a day that is essential to our faith. Because Mary was preserved from sin, she was prepared to be the mother of Jesus. Jesus' life, death, and resurrection have saved us from sin.
As we grow up we have each gone to our mothers (or in some situations auntie’s or grandma’s) for motherly love and support. They have provided advice, support, and comfort during difficult times. How much more during these times should we also go to our spiritual mother? Being free of original and actual sin the Blessed Virgin Mary was able to more closely unite herself to the Holy Spirit and listen to the guidance on how she is to live her life. Even though, Mother Mary was free from sin was not to say there weren’t difficulties throughout her life as shown in the devotion of the Seven Sorrows of Mary. The prophecy of Simeon, the flight into Egypt, losing Jesus in the Temple, and the Passion. During these moments, God was able to give Mary the grace to endure and draw closer to Him. Ultimately, completing the mission for her life and spending eternity in Heaven with Him.
As a family, we are constantly going to her during our times of trial. During the first year of marriage, numerous doctors had told us that we were going to have a difficult time conceiving due to our family's medical history. Some recommended IVF and other methods, contrary to the teachings of the Church. As we know others that have waited years to be blessed with a child and others that are still struggling, we were preparing for a long wait of what may never come. Through prayer to Mother Mary and many other saints, we have personal devotions; God blessed us with a child. During pregnancy, we struggled with not only distance with Matt being stationed in Guam, but as well as finding out that William had a 1 in 12 chance of having down syndrome. Compared to a normal 1 in 1,000. The doctors asked if we were “sure” we wanted to continue this pregnancy.
While we didn’t consider the option to terminate at 13 weeks, it was still a shock. But we knew in our hearts that no matter the outcome, we would love William no matter what. We continued in prayer, praying to Mama Mary and going to Adoration for peace and wisdom over our lives. Trusting that Mama Mary knew our fears of being first-time parents, and having a long-distance marriage, God would equip us with all the graces we would need to raise our family. We had to heavily rely on our faith.
As Catholics, we live in the world but are not of the world. This is our temporary home till we make it to heaven through the merit of our savior Jesus Christ and the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We should each reflect on the difficult moments in our own lives and how these are a grace from God to draw us closer to Him. Our ultimate goal is to reach Heaven and we should continually pray to the Queen of Heaven and Earth for the graces needed to persevere to the end as mentioned in the Memorare:
Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother. To thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen.
Matt and Johana Copas are a young couple currently residing in our EPIC Community House at Paewalani. They have been married now for almost 2 years and are navigating a lot of new seasons, with being new parents to baby William, moving into a new home, and transitioning into new careers, yet they both have remaining active and strong in their faith and in ministry. Johana is a part-time teacher at St. Michael's School in Waialua, she also coordinates the regional group Blessed Is She Hawaii. Matt is now retired from the Navy, and will be starting a new job at the Pearl Harbor Shipyard this coming August. We ask for your many prayers for them, and we thank them for the commitment and gifts they bring to EPIC Ministry.
by Fr. Richard McNally, SS.CC., Spiritual Director of EPIC Ministry
I have forgotten who said many of the wise things that have stuck in my mind in the course of life. One of those was that the Greek word often used for sacrament was “mystery”. In that sense a mystery is something that involves both God and humans. And so at the beginning of Mass every day, I invite the congregation to prepare themselves to celebrate “these sacred mysteries.”
It was in the third grade, I believe, that I learned that a sacrament is “a sign instituted by Christ that gives grace.” There you have it. Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, institutes the sacraments and I/we receive grace, a share in God’s divine life. God and humanity all mixed up together.
A sacrament is a sign, i.e. something that we can experience with one of the senses of seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling or touching. Most of the time several senses are involved in perceiving the sign.
From the beginning of his ministry, Jesus proclaimed repentance and the forgiveness of sins. His whole life culminated in his death on the cross for our salvation from sin. On the night of Easter, he came to the frightened disciples in the upper room. He said to them, “ Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” (Jn 20:22-23) The Church would continue his work of forgiveness through the Sacrament or Mystery of Penance. I bring sins and repentance. The Lord brings forgiveness and grace to be holy. The sign is the word of absolution that the priest says over me. There are other accompanying gestures, e.g. a hand raised in prayer and blessing. The priest does not make up the words and gestures. They are not his but the Church’s. He speaks and does what the Church speaks and does, not just the Church today but the Church stretching back centuries. In the simplicity of it all the Lord acts.
One final thought. As a priest I receive the sacraments as well as celebrate them. Penance is a prime example. I am a sinner who goes to another priest for confession of my sins. Jesus loves us so much that he works through imperfect and even sinful humans to give his grace and love. It’s the mystery.
by Rhea Quemado, Program Associate for EPIC Ministry
May is the month of motherhood and the month in which we especially celebrate the motherhood of Mary. It was Mary who by her fiat or great “YES” became the Mother of God and assumed a special role in our lives, becoming our mother too. Not only is she a model of motherhood, but an inspirational figure to St. John Paul II’s famous term “The Feminine Genius.” According to St. John Paul II, the Feminine Genius includes the special qualities and capabilities that are inherent to womanhood, such as strength, gentleness, humility, beauty, intuition, fidelity, self-giving, acceptance, and receptivity. These are qualities that God calls us, especially women, to embrace. The Church sees in Mary the highest expression of the “feminine genius” and finds in her a source of constant inspiration.
When I was asked to do this reflection for the month of May, I felt challenged because I kept focusing on the aspects of motherhood, which I, myself, am not in that season. But I forgot about Mary’s role of being a servant to the mission through her motherhood to Christ and to us. Mary, by her obedience and faith, not only placed herself at God’s service, but also at the service of others, which was a service of love. In my present vocation, I am a Campus Minister at Chaminade University, Program Associate for EPIC, and a House Mom at the Mercy House, all of which I was called to for the service and love of others. Mary inspires me in her obedience to serving God. She reminds me that sometimes our “yes” may look different. Sometimes our “yes” is not only for a big decision; sometimes it's saying “yes” in the little decisions too. God utilized Mary’s desire, and her “yes”, to accept His will in her life, and sent her to communicate His loving plan for all of humanity. He does that with us too, utilizing us to communicate his will and his glory in whatever vocation we are presently called too.
God aligns our desires to his will. I love serving. I love ministering and supporting our young adults in college and our ministry in EPIC. Wherever you may be in your life, I pray that in this present moment, your will, like Mary, may align with God’s will and that you know you are exactly where you’re supposed to be. Sometimes we don't have that one great “yes”. But every small “yes” we make every moment of every day leads us closer to doing God’s will.
by Yvonne Fukumoto, Finance Officer of EPIC Ministry
(Reposted from May 2021)
Motherhood teaches us everything we need to know about faith. Being a parent helps us to understand how God, our Father, relates to us. The innate emotions we have of love, frustration, and compassion for our kids, is the same way God feels about us, as His children. I have felt stressed and anxiety many times during my journey as mother and I have equally lifted numerous prayers to God because of my children. Being a mother challenges you in ways that you cannot study or prepare for, and of course, each child comes with difference experiences.
I came into motherhood with no real expectation at the age of 21. It was a surprise and a blessing as new parents to have our first baby girl, Maile, because she was extremely easygoing, and our lifestyle didn’t change much. Then we thought Maile needed a sibling and planned the birth our second baby girl, ‘Ōlena, who graced us with a lively personality that refreshed our lives. Just when we thought our family was complete, God surprised us with our last baby girl, Lehua, who is a bundle of energy that tested our patience.
My children bring joy and laughter into my life and their playful smiles always make my day. However, at the same time, they push me to my limits. Luckily, I am married to one of the best people I know, who has taught me from the beginning of our relationship, to “Have Faith”. Through the most difficult times, it may seem like you’ve had enough, but it is in these moments that we must turn to God and find comfort in knowing that you are not alone. I also find that connecting with other mothers in a community of faith and sharing in the joys and the pains of motherhood together helps keep your sanity in check.
My constant prayer to my children is that they not only be physically protected but also to build their own relationship and faith in God. I hope through our example as parents, they find peace, hope, and reassurance that God is with them. Motherhood and faith go together. I couldn’t do one without the other. You need faith in God to get through motherhood. Wine helps... But faith is essential.
Happy Mother’s Day!
Please continue praying for a complete and speedy recovery for Yvonne who has been in the ICU for five months now battling anti-NMDAR encephalitis, a rare neurological autoimmune disease.
by Dallas Carter Jr., President of EPIC Ministry
“Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart” (Joel 2:12)
Aloha mai kākou,
As the Lenten season comes to a close and we near the celebration of the Sacred Triduum and Easter, we begin, as a Church, to more deeply reflect on the life, death, and resurrection of Our Lord and the salvation that he offers us through the great Paschal Mystery. I would like to offer you a brief reflection on salvation for you to consider as you finish your Lenten journey and look to arise anew in Christ on Easter Sunday.
I often reflect on salvation as simply a chance to NOT go to hell. I certainly don’t want to go to hell and it is helpful to have guidance from our Holy Church on what we can do to avoid eternal punishment and to make it to heaven! I know the rules of God and the Church, I try really hard to follow those rules, and I try to frequent the sacrament of Confession when I go off track.
However, salvation is about so much more than simply an acquittal of the punishment we rightly ought to receive as a result of sin…Salvation is so much more than just a get-out-of-jail-free card. Jesus gives himself completely on the cross. It was the supreme self gift. As He says himself in Jn 15:13, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
"Jesus gives himself completely on the cross. It was the supreme self gift."
What more then is there to salvation that we ought to reflect on during this special time in our liturgical calendar? The compendium of the catechism says, n.85 (cf. 2 Peter 1:4), that one of the reasons that God became man and died for us on the Cross was so that we could be partakers in His Divine Life. This means that a big part of embracing our salvation in Christ is for us to share in the very life of God and not necessarily only after we die; but now, here on earth. He entered our plight as mankind, died our death, and rose again to new life. He assumed our humanity so that he could infuse it with his divinity. In which ways do you partake in the Divine Life? In which ways do you live out your salvation now while you journey with Christ here on earth?
We are all wounded, we are all broken in some way. Salvation then is not just about forgiveness… It is about filling us with Divine life. Salvation is not only about how to get to heaven, it is about healing our brokenness and making us whole. Our Lord wants us to be with Him. He wants us to return to Him; but He wants us to return to Him with whole hearts. Imagine a piece of wood into which a big nail is hammered. Removing the nail would be like the forgiveness we receive through salvation. However, even after the nail is gone, there is a big hole left in the wood. The salvation God offers us is more than just removing the nail. God removes the nail but also desires to fill the hole that is left behind. If we embrace our salvation daily and give Jesus access to all parts of our life, He can begin the process of not only offering us forgiveness, but also filling the holes left behind from the brokenness and wounds of our lives.
"God removes the nail but also desires to fill the hole that is left behind."
As we “look toward heaven” as an EPIC community this year, and as we near the celebration of the Sacred Triduum wherein we remember the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord, the question for us should not only be “what must I do to be on the path to heaven?” but rather it should also be “what can I do to be a greater partaker in the Divine Life that God is offering us? What can I do to allow God access to my life so that He might heal my brokenness? What can I do to allow God to make my heart whole?”
Ad Jesum Per Mariam,
Dallas Carter Jr., MPT
President, EPIC Ministry
by Kainoa Fukumoto, founder of EPIC Ministry
Wow, it's been a while since I wrote a reflection for an EPIC newsletter. As I write this particular message, I'm sitting in a hospital room on the 90th day since my wife, Yvonne, was admitted due to a neurological autoimmune disease. Three months have gone by, and yet, very little improvement has been made with her condition.
My wife has, in so many ways, been the pillar of our home. I'm kind of just the comic relief. She took care of our finances, arranging our three daughter's extracurricular activities, and even though I'm the principal of the school, she's actually the one who made sure the girls kept on top of their studies. So you can imagine the adjustment our family has gone through without her around. On top of my responsibilities of being a principal, parish and ministry leader, and business owner, I functionally became a single-father almost overnight. And my kids were left without their mother.
Shortly after Thanksgiving, what I thought would be a short hospital stay turned into days, weeks, and now months. Due to the surge of COVID-19 during the holidays, hospital visitations were suspended, so we could not see Yvonne through the holidays including her birthday, our youngest daughter's birthday, and Valentine's Day. Our home life was turned upside down as I struggled to manage everything that Yvonne normally took care of, such as figuring out which bills weren't paid, how to sign-up my kids for swimming and gymnastics, and making sure homework was done completely and accurately (meeting Yvonne's high standards). Most of the time, I think I got things together, but other times, I was a complete mess.
"Most of the time, I think I got things together, but other times, I was a complete mess."
I didn't have my parenting partner to help me when the kids were getting on my last nerve. I was clueless when it came to Christmas shopping. But I just miss having my best friend, my confidant, around. She put up with all my shenanigans and listened to my venting. She's always much more reasonable and practical than I am, but she still entertained my crazy ideas, larger-than-life views, and religious/political rants. Some nights, after the girls went to bed, we'd stay up to just talk and laugh.
We've been married for 10 years, and honestly, I still feel like were just getting started. She wanted to travel more after our amazing 10th year anniversary trip to Napa/Sonoma Valley and San Francisco in November. Our kids were finally at that age that they aren't super dependent on us. We were planning for major renovations on our home to make it our "forever home" (because it might take us forever to pay it off!). And those of you who know us know that we never stopped dating. We always put our marriage first. Our marriage was never better, and our love was never stronger.
Over the last several months, I would pray in ways that I never did before. I would beg and bargain with God to heal her, to let her come back to us, even to make us trade places. But that didn't happen. Instead, she at several points became worse. I haven't heard her speak for nearly three months. She is catatonic and on a ventilator with too many drugs for me to properly list. She's gone through so many treatments and procedures, yet three months later, it doesn't feel like we've made any traction toward recovery. I felt myself starting to give up, questioning if she'll ever make it out of the hospital. I prepared myself mentally and spiritually for the worse.
"I felt myself starting to give up, questioning if she'll ever make it out of the hospital. I prepared myself mentally and spiritually for the worse."
Throughout these past months, I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support that so many have extended to me and the girls. So many people have shared their own testimonies of similar experiences, many of which were stories of perseverance. Friends and family have reached out and stepped in so that we never ever felt isolated or overburdened. It helped me to put things back into perspective. Even though we're going through all this, God still has a greater plan. God has not abandoned us. And there may be many blessings in disguise that come from everything we are going through.
As we prepare for this upcoming season of Lent, I often think of how God definitely has a plan. Lent is a time that we should purposefully and meaningfully look toward the Cross of Christ, and reflect on what it means for our lives personally. "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3:16) God has always had a plan and that plan is one that is designed to bring us eternal life. By His own example, it's a plan that involves struggles, challenges, and trials, but it's one that will lead us to something much, much greater. Jesus said, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." (Matthew 16:24) To follow Christ is to take up our crosses and follow him.
It is so tempting to just give up sometimes. Things are too hard and our cross is too heavy. But we forget that Jesus invites us to follow him. He didn't keep his cross, he transformed it! We're not meant to keep our crosses; his invitation to follow him is also an invitation to give our crosses to him so that he can also transform them. Don't give up; give it up to Jesus. He can take it.
"It is so tempting to just give up sometimes. Things are too hard and our cross is too heavy."
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)
This experience has not only made me appreciate Yvonne more, but it in many ways has also strengthened our marriage. Our marriage is still never better, and our love never stronger. And through it all, I know God is with us every step of the way. When things get hard, he says, "Come to me, and I will give you rest." When I feel like giving up, he challenges me to give it up to him. I don't know what God has in store for us, but I'm confident it will be amazing even if it's not easy. Not my will be done, by Thy will be done. Amen.
by Kainoa Fukumoto
Around this time every year, we often start asking the question, “what should I give up or do for Lent”. I already started asking this very question. There were certain years that I gave up meat, chocolate, coffee, and yes, even alcohol for the whole season. I’ve made Lenten promises to set aside time each day for intentional prayer, attend daily Mass, and go to adoration more frequently. I’ve also done other not specifically spiritual exercises such as limiting what I spend money on, limiting how I spend money, or unplugging from social media. All of these are great things, but I want to challenge us to something even greater this year.
This Lent, I’d like to propose something slightly different. Continue asking the question of what you’re giving up or what you’ll do differently, but challenge yourself to make it a little more “radical”. For example, if you plan to give up meat everyday, perhaps make an intentional effort every week to also personally reach out to and help feed the hungry such as the poor and homeless. If you plan to pray more, perhaps make an intentional effort to lead prayer at gatherings, such as at family events or ministry meetings, if you’re never one to do so. If you plan to unplug from social media, perhaps consider intentionally reaching out to, reconnecting, and actually meeting up with people who you haven’t kept in touch with regularly especially those who no longer come to church or who you may need to reconcile with.
Perhaps the most radical part of committing to this is a sacrifice of our time. To be a true follower of Christ (a.k.a. a Christian) requires us to give Jesus our whole heart and lives so that He can transform us and mold us into a more perfect creation of our Creator. In order for us to allow that to happen, we need to sacrifice our own desires and especially sacrifice our time to Christ so that He can be ever present in us, and we can be Ever Present In Christ (EPIC). This year, I challenge you to a more radical Lent than you ever had before, and I guarantee that Jesus will radically change you when Easter arrives.
by Kainoa Fukumoto
On this day every year, I think about my first trip to Rome. Those of you who will be joining EPIC on our Italy Pilgrimage 2020 will be visiting and seeing some of the world's most impressive churches and incredible works of art. Rome is stooped in so much history and culture that it's very easy to get lost in it all.
One evening, a small group of us decided to have a nice dinner at an unassuming little Italian restaurant off the Piazza Navona, blessed with a great view of its 17th-century Fountain of Four Rivers (also one of my favorite fountains in Rome). After placing our orders, I decided to take an evening stroll around the piazza while waiting for our food to arrive.
I didn't walk too far when I heard a very familiar song faintly playing off in the distance. I couldn't quite place it immediately, but I decided to follow it. As I neared the music, I found it led me to a beautiful quaint church that I never noticed in previous visits to the piazza earlier in the week (and by "quaint," I mean in comparison to the other churches in Rome; this church was still probably twice the size of OLS).
Lit votive candles lined the steps up to the church's vestibule. As I ascended the steps, the music became clearer and clearer. Upon entering the church, the first thing I noticed was it was full of young people! I had been traveling on this pilgrimage with people three times my age, so this was a welcome sight. They were all kneeling, and when I looked up at the altar, I realized this was a Eucharistic adoration. Immediately, I found a pew and joined them in adoration.
The music played on and on. It was then I finally realized why the music had sounded so familiar to me. They were singing praise and worship songs, like "Here I Am to Worship", in Italian! The music, Eucharistic adoration, and the candle-lit atmosphere was already enough to lift my spirit to a new high, but something pulled me closer to the altar.
On a little plaque, I found out that the church was dedicated to St. Agnes, who I knew nothing about. Luckily, there was a book in the back of the church that spoke about this 3rd-century saint. St. Agnes was born into a wealthy family and blossomed into a beautiful young girl who caught the eye of many high-ranking suitors. But even at a very young age, she declared that her heart belong to Jesus.
During that time, Christianity was illegal. Many people tried to force her to denounce her faith until finally she was threatened with death. Still, her faith held firm. There are several legends that surround her end circumstances. When some men attempted to rape her, an angel protected her innocence. When they tried to drag her through the streets naked, her hair miraculously grew in order to keep her from being exposed. When they tried to tie her to the stake and burn her alive, one account says the fire couldn't start, while another account says the flames parted and didn't touch her. She was finally beheaded by the sword.
The one detail that stood out to me, however, was she was only 12 or 13 years old! The faith she possessed at such a young age and through a tumultuous time was inspiring. I could see why so many young people were drawn to her church, built on the place where she was said to have been martyred and her remains kept under the high altar. During her martyrdom, witnesses commented on the radiant joy that shone from her face.
I didn't want to leave. I felt that same deep joy for Christ swelling in my heart. I'm sure I could have easily stayed there all night, but I thought my dinner pals would worry about me and I didn't want my dinner getting cold, so I went back to dinner. But after dinner, I returned to St. Agnes. And a couple other times during that trip, I returned again and again, and I was sure to return during my second trip to Rome.
Today is the feast of St. Agnes, patroness of young girls, chastity, and rape survivors. There were many grand and captivating places in Rome, such as St. Peter's Square and Basilica or the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel, but none captured my heart quite like St. Agnes on the Piazza Navona.
This small church is one of my biggest inspirations to looking forward to our pilgrimage in 2020.
by Mark Paul Albano Pilar
“He must increase, I must decrease.” A lot of us have heard it and some us have worn the clothing brand “HE>i”. We hear it and we wear it, but can we actually do it? Now what I mean when I’m writing this is, “can we deny ourselves of the worldly things so that God can increase in our lives?” For example: Can we stop scrolling on social media for an hour so that we can pray the rosary? Can we stop buying unnecessary things and use that money to buy a meal for a homeless person? Can we stop the occasion of sin through some of these worldly activities? The truth is a lot of us will have second thoughts right then and there in that exact situation and continue to bask in the pleasures of the world.
If we continue to bask in the pleasures of the world, how can God increase in our lives?
About a month ago, I said “yes” to the Exodus 90 challenge with a fraternity of men. Prior to this challenge, I’ve noticed that I have not been praying the rosary daily, going to adoration weekly, and even not praying in the morning or at night. I’ve felt like I was losing my faith in God and putting more of it in social media, buying unnecessary things, engaging in sinful acts, and just being passive with my faith journey. This was all because I put God on the back burner. Fast forward to present day: because I said “no” to the world and “yes” to God, I’ve noticed a huge difference in my prayer life--God being my top priority--and being more positive in my personal life.
Now you may be thinking that you have to do Exodus 90 or Nineveh 90 (for the women) to have God increase in our lives, or you may be thinking “it’s too hard” or “no thank you”. You don’t have to do a long 90-day challenge; we can all make some sacrifices such as putting down our phone for an hour and go to adoration, eating no meat every Friday, not going on social media for an hour a day, etc. There are many opportunities to deny ourselves so that God can increase in our lives, but we must stop having these second thoughts and put God as a top priority in our lives.
In the Gospel of Luke (9:3), Jesus gives instructions to the Twelve Disciples before they take off on their mission to spread the good news: “Take nothing for the journey, neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, and let no one take a second tunic.” This does not just show obedience to Jesus, but it also shows the denying of their worldly things so that they can carry out the mission.
Let us deny the things of the world, take nothing for the journey, and let God increase in our lives so that we may be able to hear him in the silence of our hearts and carry out the plans He has for each one of us.
MARK PAUL PILAR is a member of ROL EPIC Ministry.