Br Clarence Yue
Most of us are familiar with the parable of the rich young man who probably lived a righteous life and sought for more. However, when Jesus asked him to sell all he had and follow him, the rich young man went away sad and downcast because he was a man of much treasures (riches). Two words feature prominently: “treasures” and “choices”.
Like the rich young man, I had tried to live a righteous life after my conversion experience in 2007. Some 10 years ago in 2010, I had many “treasures” – one was a beautiful young lady whom I was ready to settle down with and a promising career pathway that began at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
I was all set for a successful life, at least in the worldly sense of the word until my girlfriend posed this question to me (rather randomly): “Are you considering the priesthood?” I did not expect that from her considering that we were almost three years into our relationship and were planning to get married soon. I was disturbed by what she said that evening, and I gave God an ultimatum to either show me plainly what it was He wanted or I would continue with my life as planned.
I spoke to Fr Jude David (then a seminarian) and I stepped into the Seminary for the first time in my life for a vocation recollection. I was somehow hoping against all hope that this was just me overthinking things. It took me two months after the recollection before I broke my silence to my girlfriend on all that had been transpiring within me all the while. When I finally broke the news to her, both of us were in tears because we knew what that meant for us.
I was quite angry with God! Why did He have to do this now? Why now? When we finally decided to stop seeing each other indefinitely, I remember it very clearly – it was the week before Easter 2011. My girlfriend was angry with me for giving up something that was almost certain to bear fruit – for something that I had no idea how it would turn out.
At the end of 2011, the pain of it all came to a breaking point for me as the silence of God was deafening and unbearable. I spoke to God: “What do you want from me, Lord? Do you not care about this pain that I am carrying with me every single moment? I try to follow your commandments as best I can and I am rewarded with nothing but pain and this sadness that will not go away.” I was ready to throw in the towel and be done with this whole ‘discerning the priesthood’ thing. And speak to me He did, through the intercession of Our Lady, at the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham (UK) with a quote taken from the Gospel of St. John:
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” – Jn 15:16 (RSV)
It was clear to me then as it is now, that it was a reassurance from God that He is in control of everything. He had set me apart for a special purpose. In the election as His beloved (adopted) son, what does it mean to be chosen by Him and to go forth to bear fruit? It is a call to bring others to know Him through the way I would live my life as a priest. Thus, the good God in His own way, quietened the storm within me.
A choice was made among the treasures
In late 2011, I had interviewed with BP in the USA, and was excited to even be considered for the engineering position (based in Naperville, IL).
With an offer of a contract for three years and pretty good remuneration, I had to get back to them within a week. In the end, I rejected the offer – very grudgingly of course. I was telling God that He had better provide for me because I turned down a job offer that would probably never come my way again. The next morning, I received a job offer at A*STAR.
I spent the next two years as an engineer at A*STAR as a process research engineer. I enjoyed my time and loved the people there. When the time came for me to say goodbye in January 2014 to enter the seminary, it was difficult to let everything go.
This is the end of my vocation story. Or is it?
When I entered the seminary premises at 199 Ponggol 17th Avenue in 2014, I thought that time would fly really quickly without too many upheavals. I would be proven wrong on this account. I was struggling and grappling internally with things that were happening to me. In 2016 I felt that I had lost every ounce of strength to carry on with seminary formation.
I requested for a leave of absence to find myself again and renew my relationship with God. I spent the next couple of years working as a process/project engineer in the chemical process industry; happy doing the things I did at work while helping out on weekends with the church choir. During my leave of absence from Seminary life, there were constant reminders and stirrings towards the priesthood in the midst of the mundane grind of my daily life. It came to a point where the only response to God’s constant love for me was to give my life in service of His people here in Singapore as a Diocesan priest.
In 2020, with the blessings of the Archbishop and seminary formators, I was re-admitted into the seminary to resume my formation towards the priesthood. Throughout the years since 2014, my family has been very supportive of my decisions and my vocation, especially during the time when I was on a leave of absence.
You might ask: “Who in their right mind would give up all that he has to follow an unseen God?” Perhaps, a person who is trying to respond to love the One Lord and God who has loved him into being. It is the only explanation that I can think of for a man to put aside all that he has and all that he loves in search of what God’s plan truly is. God calls each of us to leave our old selves, that we may truly ﬁnd meaning in our lives. Like the rich young man, I went away saddened and distraught upon hearing the Master’s invitation to ‘sell’ all my treasures and come after Him.
We live by the choices we make in life. Some wrong, some right. The choice I made to follow God’s call for me is one that I do not regret. It was not easy to make, but so are many of our life’s choices!
Most of all, I did not choose Him first, but He chose me!