MAKATI City, July 7, 2013—In more unexpected twists and turns than your regular spy thriller, a girl, who once ‘searched in’ three major world religions and doubted her Catholic faith, is now joining the World Youth Day (WYD) in Rio de Janeiro.

“There really is something about the Catholic Church, the Eucharist, the devotion to Mama Mary that you really can’t leave. [It’s] as if it would really be your fault if you don’t find out first and study your faith,” said Masol Santiago of the Diocese of Antipolo WYD sub-group, describing her personal faith journey which led her to seriously study and consider joining Islam, Hinduism, Christianity.

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Masol Santiago listens to last-minute instructions regarding the trip to Brazil with her sub-group, the Diocese of Antipolo,

Search for ‘true faith’

After initially getting converted to Born Again Christianity from Catholicism by her boyfriend, Santiago embarked on a discovery of faith that would lead, not just her, but her boyfriend as well, to the Roman Catholic faith.

Spiritual preparations for the WYD led Santiago to reflect on how certain people and events in her life eventually forged her stronger faith, leading her to respond to God’s personal invitation to join the international meeting of young people in Brazil.

In an interview yesterday during the Episcopal Commission on Youth (ECY) – Philippines delegation preparatory session for WYD pilgrims, Santiago described how her boyfriend challenged her to join him openly consider other major religions to find the “true faith.”

Studying other religions

They joined a Hindu organization, Yoga Haribol, to enroll in what she could only describe as Hindu ‘catechism’ to learn more about Hindu beliefs like reincarnation.

On her own, she interviewed Hindus and read articles about their practices and their articles of faith.

According to Santiago, it was easy to be swayed by the fact that Hinduism pre-dated Christianity by four centuries.

They decided to continue on with Islam, interviewing a Muslim leader about their laws and the content of their faith.

Both of them were not so convinced by certain Muslim practices and laws, which led them to look at Christianity again with fresh eyes.

Revisiting central Christian beliefs of salvation, revolving around Jesus’ sacrifice, Santiago said, they both saw a truth that resonated within them.

“Man would not easily be able to think of the sacrifice of Christ in order to ‘invent’ it themselves. So this is why we thought, among the three, it must be Christianity,” Santiago, who now serves as the parish youth coordinator of the Immaculate Conception parish in Marikina City, explained.

A divided Body

Further scrutiny would eventually lead to an uncomfortable truth, as they discovered, through research that there were some 33,000 Christian denominations, all claiming to be the “true Church of Christ”.

“Jesus did not want His Body to be divided, [that’s why we decided] to be with the Church that He established,” Santiago explained, saying they chose to believe that St. Peter’s line of succession is unbroken only in the Roman Catholic Church.

Santiago admitted, this turn of events was not an easy pill to swallow for her boyfriend, who was then being groomed to become a pastor in his own church.

Home, the Catholic Church

Both of them would eventually formalize their return to their real, spiritual home, the Roman Catholic Church, deciding to serve the Church actively.

Santiago can only voice amazement at the transformation her boyfriend has undergone; he has gone from a zealous Protestant, who condoned the destruction of the Blessed Virgin’s statues to a member of the Legion of Mary and a full-time staff of an organization which promotes the devotion to Our Lady of Fatima.

Counting down less than a week to WYD, Santiago shared, she believes the WYD will help her discern God’s will for her, as well give her a chance to meet Catholics from other countries.

There are 176 pilgrims from 26 origins joining the official Philippine delegation, ECY-Philippines, to the WYD. [Nirva’ana Ella Delacruz]