The Catholic Chic is a personal and faith-based blog on the life of a Catholic woman in the modern world.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Soldier and the Saint (as featured in CBCP News)

Dear Readers, 

I am reposting an article I wrote for the CBCP News during the 2015 Papal Visit for posterity's sake.

See the original CBCP posting here.

God bless you!



The soldier and the saint

by  Jacqui Acop – Paraguya
As I calmly lined up together with the other members of the Presidential Security Group to meet the Pope in person, I was humbled and joyous at the realization that I was  going to personally meet Christs representative on earth.
Colonel Dennis Acop (Retired) was a former soldier in the Philippine Army. He studied at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) and later went to the United States Military Academy (USMA), more popularly known as West Point. He served the Philippine government for close to 30 years before retiring and entering the private sector. He is a lector at the Parish of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, Quezon City, together with his wife, Joji.
Colonel Dennis Acop (Retired) was a former soldier in the Philippine Army. He studied at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) and later went to the United States Military Academy (USMA), more popularly known as West Point. He served the Philippine government for close to 30 years before retiring and entering the private sector. He is a lector at the Parish of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, Quezon City, together with his wife, Joji.
Col. Dennis Acop (ret.) was part of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) during the presidency of Fidel V. Ramos. He had prior encounters with PopeSt. John Paul II because of his trips to the Vatican for ocular inspections prior to the visits of FVR to Italy and the Vatican.
When Pope St. John Paul II came to the Philippines for World Youth Day in January 1995, Col. Dennis was automatically involved in the pope’s protection. At the time, he was the commander of the Presidential Security Group-Special Reaction Unit (PSG-SRU).
As he was both the leader of the Catholic faith and head of state, Pope St. John Paul II was accorded the highest level of protection possible both from local and international security and intelligence groups.
Just before the good Pope’s departure from the country, everyone involved in securing his trip lined up at the Manila Archbishop’s residence to bid the Pope farewell and to receive a personal blessing from him. Col. Dennis described that rare privilege of experiencing a blessing that deepened his faith on the Catholic church.
A Pope of Peace 
According to Col. Dennis, protecting the pope was simply part of protocol for him and his team. The methods they used were the same across all VIPs they had protected. However, there was something unique about the Pope that set him apart from other VIPs. Being allowed to have close encounters with the Pope, he observed that there was a different aura surrounding him.
He narrated:“There was something about being around a holy man of God. St. John Paul II was that kind of a person. He was not like the usual VIPs we were used to protecting. In the midst of this materialistic world, being around Saint John Paul II suddenly yanked me out of that world. His world of holiness was laid out before me. It was a simplistic but very real holiness.”
Once when they were at MalacaƱang with the Pope, a colleague in the military who was dying begged the PSG personnel to let him be blessed by the Pope. After he was visited and blessed by the Pope, the soldier said he was ready to face death. One thing Col. Dennis will always remember and treasure about the Pope was his gentleness and peacefulness, which comforted his suffering colleague.
Graces of the Encounter
Ever since he was a neophyte in military school, Col. Dennis dreamt of becoming a successful five-star general. However, his encounters with the face of Christ throughout his life pushed him toward a different direction.
In his encounter with St. John Paul II, Col. Dennis was deeply inspired by the pope’s humility. St. John Paul II has always been known to be the pope who visited and forgave enemies–even the person who attempted to assassinate him. He is also known to humbly reach out to the leaders of other religions, calling them to peace and unity with the Christians.
Witnessing the humility of the leader of the Catholic faith, Col. Dennis decided to leave his military career, which guaranteed worldly success but also of temptations leading to corruption. He retired from military service at the early age of 46.
One of his favorite quotes from the late Fr. James Reuter, SJ, which summarizes his journey sparked by that encounter with St. John Paul II, is:“Man is noblest not when he is riding on horseback but when he is kneeling before his God.” His decision to leave his military career in humility to follow the example of St. John Paul II during the crossroads of his life was not an easy feat. He had his doubts and storms, but he kept praying for guidance and he was never led back by God to his previous life.
At present, Col. Dennis is working for the private sector but has involved himself actively in the service of his parish as a lector.
Col. Dennis is my dad, and I’ve witnessed God’s power through him and my family as I was growing up. I breathed a word of praise and thanksgiving as he affirmed me:“If you want to be truly happy in life, you have to go for the truth and surrender to Christ everything, even your ambitions, in all humility.”

Monday, March 23, 2015

3 Things that Cause UNthankfulness

This is just a quick post as I don't want to forget these little things I learned from the Homily of Father Jojo Monis of Hearts of Jesus and Mary Parish. The topic he discussed was about the top 3 things that cause us to be "UNthankful." 

1. Taking Things for Granted

Father Jojo said that this is one of the main reasons why we become unthankful - when we forget how blessed we already are. 

Sometimes when huge or even little challenges come into my life, I dwell on them until I feel like I've solved them. Though I pray to God to help me surrender these worries, I must admit that I sometimes have a hard time doing a "full surrender" to His will. 

The homily reminded me that despite my problems, I am still blessed with a loving family and a brand new day to make better decisions and become a better person. All of us are blessed. We just have to make an everyday effort to acknowledge these truths.

2. Envy and Selective Blindness

One day I had a meet-up with my girl friends and we were updating each other on what's going on with our lives. One of my friends said, "Oh have you seen the Facebook account of (some girl's name)? I can't believe she is now a (insert awesome career here). I hope I can do the same thing. She used to be not good in school. I can't believe she's a (once again, insert the career here)."

That conversation got me baffled. I am actually very happy for people who were once struggling adolescents but have now become better individuals. Likewise, I am also happy for myself and my journey through life. Sometimes, I just hope that we don't get too engrossed in this "it's-greener-on-the-other-side" mentality and simply be happy where we are now. Let's all be happy for each others' successes because we all have something unique to celebrate about our lives. Let's choose to see the good things instead of what we feel are wrong in our lives.  

3. The Feeling of Self-Entitlement

"I achieved things without the help of God."

Some of us may tend to think that we are self-entitled of our achievements. Like everything that happened in our lives were solely from our own efforts. No one helped you get to where you are. No one blessed you with your talents, gifts, and opportunities. It's all just you.

Father Jojo reminded us that although this arrogance can well up in our hearts, we should be reminded that there is someone out there bigger than us and taking care of us despite our ingratitude.

I have a friend who seemed to have it all. He's very proud of his achievements because he was top of his class while in university and recently, has passed all tests for a much awaited career promotion. When the time for promotion came, he apparently, was not chosen. He was so used to his success that when he did not get what he wanted, he became resentful of his work and secluded himself from his workmates. 

The call for us in our times of pride and arrogance is to regain the virtue of humility in our hearts. Sometimes there will be things that we will not get in life but this should not stop us from appreciating the rest of what's great about our lives.

Live Life to the Fullest! God bless you! :)