MARCH 30, 2008, Vol 58, No 7

Looking back, I have always been surrounded by God’s blessings – an interesting childhood, a great husband, friends, smooth sailing studies and a rewarding career. But I was always too proud and busy to acknowledge his existence in my life even though I always had an impression that there was someone greater and bigger above all of us.

In God’s ever-patient love, he stayed on and brought his most powerful evangelist, my godmother, Wendy, who piqued my interest in the Catholic faith by being a beautiful person in life. I was curious enough to join the RCIA with her as my godmother.

Still, a few weeks before I was to start my first session, I had cold feet. Doubts settled in me and I was ready to pull out of the journey. Even though Wendy said she understood and ultimately respected my decision, I could tell that she was disappointed. She must have prayed very hard for I subsequently mustered the courage and decided to make a commitment to God by getting back on the RCIA path.

I started RCIA not knowing what to expect, except an inkling that it was about "getting to know God" and not necessarily getting baptized. But so far, every single session sealed my decision in wanting God to be a greater part of my life, to be a greater servant to him.

I cannot pinpoint when this turning point in my life occurred.But I notice God’s presence through certain events.

More so at work of late. I pray the Lord’s Prayer when I deal with difficult situations and need extra strength, and I get the peace to muster the courage to do what needs to be done. Or I attend mass and sing the hymns, and start crying because it is such a beautiful experience and the words just happen to reflect the feelings I have in my heart for God. Before I leave my home in the mornings for work, I also say the Lord’s Prayer, Hail Mary and Glory Be and I immediately feel I am protected in his embrace of ever-patient and forgiving love. It gives me the extra spring in my step, the confidence to say, "I can conquer whatever will be thrown my way, with him by my side..."

As with all relationships, people grow stronger in love with each other. That is how I will describe my relationship with God. He has given me peace beyond comprehension. I no longer live for myself, but for others. I constantly pray to be free from anxiety and knowing his presence in me, I have become a stronger person. n

 

Cecilia Koh, 33,

Church of St. Ignatius

From young, my sisters who went to a Methodist church brought me with them. However as a very naughty boy, I skipped Sunday Classes and ended up missing services too as I simply didn’t believe much in the faith. Even when I attended church, it would be because I was largely forced to, which made me even unhappier. I still believed in God but didn’t pray or read the Bible.

When I reached my secondary school years, I discovered something incredible: no one forced me to be a Christian. So I stopped attending church and even developed a strong dislike for Christianity.

At that time, I focused only on my friends and social life, neglecting anything spiritual. Although all that was a lot of fun to me, I felt a "God-shaped" hole within and rarely felt fulfilled or happy. This emptiness prodded me to open my mind to the value of faith. I knew I wanted to follow Jesus, but I wasn’t exactly sure where or how I would do it.

In my third year at Polytechnic, a close friend brought me to a Charismatic Church when I told him I was a free thinker. However after the sessions, I just felt that something is missing.

Things at home started to fall apart sometime around 2006, especially with my dad who died that year. I was totally depressed. Work and school didn’t go well as I kept thinking about him. I felt I was blamed for everything even though I tried to get back on track with my life. Oddly enough, during this time, I went to a Catholic Mass.

To this day, I can’t think of any rational reason that compelled me, who had never been to a Catholic service before (outside of a wedding), to attend a Mass. I believe it was the Holy Spirit nudging me, however gently, towards the Catholic Church.

And this is how I got into RCIA at Church of St. Stephen. I found that Catholic theology was spiritually and theologically satisfying. I went through an entire year to learn in RCIA with a very understanding Parish Priest, Catechists and Sponsors. The Catholic faith is not always easy, but that is one of the things that attracted me to it. My spiritual life no longer requires self-regulation, but I am accountable to God and the Church in confession. Rather than being a burden, it is freeing to know that I’m forgiven and on the path (however long) towards holiness. For the first time I’m tackling habitual sins and I’m not doing it alone, but have the prayers of Mary, the Saints, the Sacraments, the Apostles, and the time-tested prayers of the Church. n

 

Theodore Yam, 26,

St. Stephen

On my second day of kindergarten in a Catholic church, I saw a statue surrounded by rocks and water fountain feature. When I asked the gardener for her name, he replied, "She is Mother Mary." I was so deeply touched by the word "Mother" that I started going to the grotto everyday after class to share my stories with her.

Although I grew up in a Hindu environment, I hardly prayed at home. But I sincerely felt that Mother Mary was listening to me and I believe the calling to become a Catholic started then.

Years went by and though I continued to visit the grotto, I never took the initiative to go into the main church. It was only eight years later, out of curiosity that I stepped in. The feeling was great. It felt so peaceful.

This peace led me to attend Mass and slowly I learned the rosary, Divine Mercy, etc. But the thought of conversion did not cross my mind – I was quite comfortable with my church routine.

It was only during my late 20s that I wanted to join the RCIA but due to studies and other commitments, I could not accomplish my wish until last year, when I joined the RCIA at Church of Christ the King.

Before that, I have never felt the eagerness to receive Christ at Holy Communion. But today, I am so eager to receive Christ in the Holy Eucharistic Celebration. Now I don’t have to be left in the pew while everyone else goes for communion.

Every celebrated rite on the journey has been a passing from one way of understanding the Christian life to another more discerning and zealous approach to the life in Christ which I seek for. I can feel that I am slowly moving towards the cross each time I answer "YES, I DO" at every rite, from the Rite of Acceptance all the way to the Rite of Election.

Throughout my journey I have also experienced discipleship – through my godparent, sponsors and coordinators. All sponsors will always be awaiting to welcome us every week with their lovely smiles no matter how tired they are. I believe on Easter Vigil, they will see the fruits from the seeds which they have planted nine months ago.

I am looking forward to Easter Vigil to be united with Christ and to carry his cross. Last but not least, I feel strongly he really calls ALL of us to him. All we need to do is to answer his call. n

 

Lavinia Sebastian, 35,

Church of Christ the King

Since young, I knew God has always been in my life. But I always failed to recognize his works and presence; instead I took everything for granted. Sometimes, I would naively ask myself, "Why do I need God?" I was happy with my smooth-sailing life and had everything I needed and wanted. But soon, my life fell apart and I questioned myself on the meaning of life. I went through a series of setbacks and realized only God can fill up the void in my heart.

During those periods of distress, I cried at nights. I felt, mysteriously, that God heard my cries and he saw the shattered pieces of my heart. For unexplained reasons, I found myself crying to God for help and for his salvation. That was the first time I prayed the longest prayer without speaking a word. I knew he was right there, hugging me, comforting my soul and nursing my broken heart. He saw right through me.

Call it God’s mysterious works or his perfect timing, my non-Catholic friend, God’s timely messenger, invited me to ‘visit’ his church in January last year. There, I fixed my eyes on the crucifix and miraculously found peace. I knew I wanted to depend on him only.

At that time, I hadn’t heard of the RCIA, until a good friend spoke about it. Incidentally, it was mentioned in the Church of the Holy Spirit’s bulletin that very weekend.

I had found it very difficult to attend the Thursday sessions and Breaking of the Word sessions on Sundays. I work London-hour shifts (4.00pm-2.00am) daily so it is near impossible to attend RCIA. But somehow with God’s grace, I managed most of the evenings, with great understanding from my boss! And because my biological clock is tuned to London hours, I usually only wake up after 12.00pm! To get up early on Sundays was a huge struggle! But I’ve gone through every week with the strength he gave me...

This RCIA journey is a lifetime experience which I will always keep close to my heart. Some think it is a ‘crash-course’ to learn more about the Catholic faith, but I say it is indeed a life-transforming experience. I wasn’t convinced by how our lives can be transformed within such a short period of time, as vouched by many newly baptized. But now, I can say with full conviction that it has happened, and is still happening.

There are many incidences when I felt God on the journey but what touched me most was the Lenten retreat. I brought a very heavy burden there and finally lifted it up to God. I realize I was the one who didn’t want to come out of that "tomb" (like Lazarus) though God has already gotten people to remove the stone from the opening.

It is only recently that I learnt to value simpler things in life and yearn only for God’s love. Forgiveness was not something I could give readily in the past. But learning how Christ has forgiven my sins, I learn to love and forgive.

I reflected on my past, carefully ‘scrutinizing’ my life each week and realized how much time I have wasted leading an ungodly life. This spiritual journey gently jolted me to live a more Christ-like life. It kept me strong in faith and reminded me weekly to faithfully be his loving and humble servant.

Now, I lead my life knowing that I have nothing to fear.I’ve learnt to cast my anxieties on him, from work politics to family problems, and to know he is always with me no matter how taxing or exasperating each period is. As one of my sponsors said, "The Lord will not lead us to where his grace cannot keep us".

I hope that my faith will remain strong after becoming a Catholic. I want to make a conscious effort to live a Christian life for others to see and feel God’s love for themselves. Like Father said, "We are told not to only proclaim our faith but to live it out in our lives."

The summary of my faith journey may not be a good testimony to convince anybody of God’s great love for us and his hopes in everyone to accept him into our hearts, but with my life I offer up to him this Easter, I hope you will too.

 

Ho Chu Yun, 24,

Church of the Holy Spirit

From the window of the house I lived in as a child, I could see the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (B.V.M.). I loved looking at the cross and thought the church was very beautiful. I also used to walk by the church to get home from school. Despite coming from a Taoist family, I have strong feelings for the church and a deep curiosity to know Jesus.

But I didn’t know any Catholic friends and I didn’t dare to approach anyone from the church although there were times when parishioners came to my home to talk to us about the faith, with brochures of Mary, Jesus and the Holy Spirit as a dove.

In the many years I spent working, I never once met a Catholic friend who would speak about God to me. Instead, I found a Protestant friend who brought Jesus Christ into my life. I was very touched by her and went with her to her church for service. I grew closer to Jesus and started to develop a strong relationship with him. I was even prepared to be baptized into their church.

However events at a retreat left me uneasy. I dreamt of Mother Mary at the Nativity of the B.V.M. parish. I have never dreamt of her before and was very confused when I awoke. I was really unhappy and left the retreat only to return to it a few years later when I met my friend again. But once more, Mother Mary came to me in my dream. And once more, I left the retreat.

Recurring dreams of Mother Mary and the Church of the Nativity of the B.V.M. eventually led me to reject the baptism I was supposed to go through at my friend’s church. Deep in my heart, I felt a very strong calling from Mother Mary and a desire to respond to her. I didn’t know if I should be a Protestant or a Catholic. It was a difficult time. I couldn’t concentrate on my work, my life. I checked out the parish website but it was down. Unwilling to give up, I continued my search for God, until I got my sponsor’s number. This was when my RCIA journey began – the beginning of my life.

I dreamt of Mother Mary a last time the night after my Rite of Election. That night, she smiled at me. Right now, I am looking forward to my baptism!n

 

Rafaela Eva Tan, 26

Church of the Nativity

of the Blessed Virgin Mary