I was an honor student. I was a student leader. I was an achiever.
I dedicated so much of my life developing myself through various activities. That is probably why expectations got bigger and bigger here and there. Not completely sure of what I am supposed to do after college, I entered law school. Later on, as I was reading law books and cases amidst the lightning storm in our classroom due to the recitation facilitated by terror yet reputable lawyers and judges, I became more enthusiastic of learning and understanding the essence and the details of every law we have in the country. I became conscious of the reality of politics in the government and in the society. I suddenly realized that I really wanted to become a lawyer.
One of the most unforgettable weeks I have had was during one Midterms exam season. It was a Thursday. I had no scheduled exam back then and it was my birthday. I was excited but not happy. For a reason that I do not know, I was bothered. I was worried. I was troubled. But, I had no idea that my brother was actually admitted in a hospital that time. He was in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) and my family did not tell me because they were worried about me struggling in my preparation for my exams. I could not sleep. I was restless. There was something wrong. Then I found out… My brother died.
I was able to survive that semester but with failing grades in some subjects. The next semester, during the time that I was trying to keep up with my studies, I had family problems. I had issues with my closest friend. I had a very real relationship but got surprised that it had to end.
What… was… happening?
I was an inch close to giving up — giving up my dreams, giving up my beliefs, giving up my faith, giving up my hope, giving up my life, giving up my faith in God.
I got really tired. Exhausted. Drained. Empty. Then, I decided to stop studying. To stop from law school. From stress. From worries. From disappointments. From pain.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28).
While I was pondering about my life, I found myself serving God through our ministry, Youth for Family and Life, and even the kids’ ministry, more actively. It came out as a surprise that I was somehow gradually healed by spending time with the youth and the kids. Until this AYC (Area Youth Conference) — our area’s annual conference intensified my need to recover myself.
Krusada. This was the title of YFL Batangas’ Area Youth Conference. It is a powerful term. Crusade implies that there is a war, a battle, a fight.
What do the national and international news involve today? War on drugs, terrorism, murder, violence, and the like. Ironically, death today is like breathing; merely a normal phenomenon in our daily lives — nothing to worry about, not a problem at all. But Fr. Froilan Carreon, the Holy Mass Celebrant, was right in saying that what we should have is a culture of life, not of death. We should maintain a culture of love, not of hatred. We should observe a culture of peace, not of war. I was reminded that it is always important to note that the crusade that we are in, is a holy one. “To be a crusader of love means to be a crusader of God.” (Fr. Carreon). We fight not by guns or swords, but with love and prayer.
The recently held AYC made me dream bigger. Ms. Kim Viray, the speaker of Session One: One in Christ, said that if you are struggling in your academics, God already saw you wearing your graduation toga. She also stated that while you are fighting your own battle in life, God already won that battle. These words struck me the most. It suddenly inflamed more my desire to be a lawyer. I want to act with modesty, fairness, and equality. I want to defend especially those who are weak and helpless. I want to fight for what is right. The truth should not be bent by wealth, fame, or power. I am willing to offer my life for justice and for the love of God because “we are called to give this kind of love — a sacrificial love” (Ms. Kim Viray).
Because of the AYC, I realize that I should not seek for my old self who was an honor student, who was a student leader, and who was an achiever. I am awakened by the need to remind myself that I am not a “was” on everything; I still can be that same person because it is never too late to change one’s current situation.
I also learned that there is nothing wrong in taking a pause, a rest, a time to breathe. But I should never stop. Never stop dreaming. Never stop aiming to be better. Never stop asking for God’s guidance when you are a little lost. I should remember what inspires me to work hard and to learn more. I must be strong and firm and tough in order to win more battles. All my dreams will come true, no matter how long and how hard it is to achieve them, only if I believe in myself that I can. I learned that putting faith in God also means putting a little more faith in myself. I am His child thus, I can find my identity in Him. Knowing Him makes me know myself more.
After all my realizations, I am now calling out to the youth to spread love anywhere and anytime in their own little ways; for all families to be united as the core unit of the society, and for everyone to be aware of what is happening in our country and in the world. Let us all be part of the solution, not of the problem. Let us use our knowledge, skills, and faith to win God’s battle here on earth. With God’s grace, we can win this fight, together.
We are all crusaders for Christ!
Catherine Atienza is currently a YFL Household Servant currently serving at the area of Batangas. She aspires to become a lawyer one day.