I was born and raised Catholic by my devout parents, who were persistent about daily family prayer and had profound reverence for the Lord and the Church. I found myself being naturally drawn to everything about the church – the Holy Mass, the nuns, convents, and the Rosary, just to name a few.
All was well, until I left home for further studies and came to the ‘freedom’ that is Singapore. I was far away from the watchful eyes of my strict parents and in a situation where I could decide for myself. I began to ‘enjoy’ my new-found independence, exploring previously forbidden practices and venues, prioritizing worldly things and people before my time with God and thus, slowly losing grip on my faith.
Within a few months, I had turned into a fearful, self-conscious, foul-mouthed wreck; I just wanted to turn into a cocoon and shut myself indoors, because I had begun to despise the life that I thought was ‘free’. I was so appalled by my sinful ways that I convinced myself that there was no return. I would go for Mass to fulfill my obligation, or because my parents would ask if I did, but I would sit in Church with a downcast soul, not even lifting my head to look at the altar or even Mother Mary’s venerated statue.
But the Lord, who had called me to be His own, was not done with me.
Through soft promptings that can only be from the Holy Spirit, I felt encouraged to repeat the ‘Hail Mary’ prayer as many times as I could during the day, especially during times of temptation or despair. The Lord used my weakness and love for His Mother to draw me back to Him. Mumbling the prayer so often felt like drops of grace falling on my parched soul.
Over the next couple of days, I came back to my parish Church and went straight to the confessional. As I poured my heart out in confession, I felt enveloped by love, by a strong hug that didn’t want to let go of me. I knew I had come back into the arms of my Lord. As a baby tugs on to its mother, I held on to Mother Mary even stronger, committing time and effort to pray the Rosary regularly and slowly regained my joyful spirituality. I also rejoined my youth ministry which I had been active in and allowed myself to be formed and molded by the Lord.
Even today, in moments when I stumble and fail, I know for a fact that the Lord will never let go of me.