National Service had been a period of both physical and spiritual exhaustion for 21-year-old Lucas Tang. By the time he completed his duty early this year, Lucas found himself drained and desiring a renewed relationship with God.
Together with friends from his parish, the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM), Lucas decided to attend the Awaken retreat organised by the Catholic Spirituality Centre (CSC).
“I heard about Awaken from friends who shared how wonderful their experience was, and I thought that it would be a good way to renew my faith. A good place to start again with God,” he shared.
On 29 June 2017, Lucas joined over 100 fellow youths aged between 18 and 25 for a four-day retreat with overnight stay. With only a desire for God and no expectations, the retreat would eventually turn out to be a life-changing experience for Lucas.
Led by His Grace, Archbishop William Goh, and meticulously organised by the Amplify community at CSC, participants experience four days packed full of heart-warming praise and worship, intimate sharing sessions, as well as earnest celebration of the Sacraments.
Despite the full programme, the organisers also went to great lengths to cater to each participant, knowing that individuals experience their faith differently and at different paces.
“There was a lot of praise and worship, and charismatic forms of prayer, which I am not very used to. But the facilitators were very reaffirming and took the time to explain why they sang or do certain things,” Lucas said.
He appreciated that the retreat organisers took the time to guide each retreatant through their individual journeys. Being able to progress at his own pace allowed Lucas the time to come face-to-face with the grace of God, to develop a profound understanding of His unconditional love, and to experience first-hand a deep personal inner healing.
His Grace, Archbishop William Goh, and Fr Erbin Fernandez posing for a photo with Awaken retreat participants.
While there were many memorable moments during the four-day retreat, Lucas recalls one particularly empowering realisation at Awaken.
As a young child, at only five-years-old, Lucas had lost his father. Growing up, he had learnt to move on from the loss but he never realised how much he repressed that event in his life.
It was only during a conversation with Fr Erbin Fernandez at the retreat that the incident resurfaced. That was when Lucas first came face-to-face with the healing nature of God’s love.
He recounted, “Fr Erbin asked me about my relationship with my parents, and I told him about losing my father at a young age. To me, I was actually just describing things as a matter of fact since it happened so long ago. But for some reason, I broke down and started crying. I have never felt that way before.”
Lucas added, “Fr Erbin helped me understand that perhaps it was because I was so young and had not taken the time to grieve, and God was trying to heal me in this part of my life.”
After that session, Lucas shared that he felt uplifted and at peace. “I think I know now what it means when people say the Holy Spirit is working in me. And I am so grateful to be able to experience this healing I never knew I needed,” Lucas said.
Lucas (bottom left) and his Awaken retreat group members and facilitators with His Grace, Archbishop William Goh.
Photo: Lucas Tang
Having encountered God in such a personal manner, Lucas shared that life has changed for him because “now, I have a real encounter with God. Something tangible I can hold onto in my faith,” he said.
Following Awaken, Lucas and other retreatants continue to be invited back to CSC for formation sessions every Saturday.
The Amplify community, who runs these sessions, believe that developing a relationship with God is a journey that does not end at a retreat.
Lucas, who makes it a point to attend these sessions, admitted that, “outside of a retreat, I realise it is very difficult to sustain the same level of passion for the faith. I find the Saturday sessions a good way to remind me of how God has blessed me.”
Faith is a journey that everyone has ups and downs with. But the whole experience has taught Lucas that “it actually does not take grandiose gestures or proclamations to keep our passion burning for Christ; all it takes is a willing heart and an open mind.”