I was baptised at 11 years old and joined the altar servers at my parish, St Michael’s for 13 years, before moving on to focus on my career. It was during this absence from ministry that I became a “lost sheep”, running away from Church for two years. There was nothing to hold or keep me rooted to church anymore. I had not gone for Confession for a very long time because I used to think “what for need to confess to a priest when I can just simply confess directly to God as and when I felt the need to” which of course in the end led to ‘no need la’. Sunday mass really just felt like an obligation, ‘bo pian’, no choice still had to go for mass. I skipped mass at times, and on Sundays when I did go for mass, I was physically in the church but my spirit and mind was wandering elsewhere, probably still half asleep from all my ‘night activities’.
A Heart of Flesh
But the turning point in my life came when I attended the Conversion Experience Retreat (CER) held at Catholic Spirituality Centre (CSC), which was conducted by then Fr William Goh. I was like, alright, nothing to lose, just go attend this retreat and see what it was like but honestly, I was quite skeptical as to what this retreat could do for me, but decided to go with an open heart and open mind.
To my surprise, at the retreat, the Almighty Surgeon, Dr. Jesus Christ replaced my heart of stone with a heart of flesh. During the Stations of the Cross, I received the most priceless gift of God’s love, Jesus dying on the cross to redeem me. I finally made my confession to a priest after so many years and His mercy, forgiveness and compassion felt so real, so tangible! After this 4-day spiritual surgery, I felt a strong passion to share His love, mercy and compassion in the same way I had experienced them. This also led to a strong desire to mend and develop an intimate relationship with God.
I returned to the altar servers ministry after the retreat, and also became more involved with the parish. But all this while, there were still no thoughts of the priesthood. In fact, throughout my life, I had never considered the priesthood. I had always wanted to have a family of my own, with maybe at least 2 kids, a boy and a girl. I even recall on a few occasions when I was younger where my mother and even my Godmother would go around telling people that they were praying for me to be a priest and I would stare angrily at them and gave them this ‘please stop doing all this’ look.
He does not call those who are qualified, He qualifies those whom He calls.
But lo and behold, about six months after my conversion experience, I was attending a holy hour adoration at St Michael’s and during the silent meditation, as I was staring blankly at the crucifix in church, suddenly out of nowhere appeared a vision of an ordination mass happening right there before the sanctuary at St Michael’s. The vision only revealed someone lying prostrate in front of the sanctuary before the actual ordination rites but it did not reveal to me who was getting ordained. A few days later, I found myself surfing the Seminary’s website. There was this page on the website where it states certain signs if a young man was called to the priesthood. So as I was reading through the signs listed, I saw myself agreeing with majority of them. “You feel drawn to greater involvement to Church life”, “You desire a closer relationship with God”, just to mention a few points.
It suddenly dawned on me that God was possibly calling me to the priesthood and my first reaction was “CANNOT BE! YOU MUST BE JOKING RIGHT, GOD? ME? PRIESTHOOD? Such a sinful and broken person and you want me to be a priest? How can that be?” God definitely had a great sense of humour. At that point in my life, I was actually very happy at my job, made lots of friends, was paid quite well but He called and invited me to something that would offer me a much greater place of honour. Something that was everlasting, not on earth but in heaven with Him.
Throughout my discernment even up till today after entering the Seminary, there were many occasions where I had doubted God’s call for me but through every occasion, He also showed me how much He loves me which I have never felt worthy of, sometimes even felt guilty that I have not loved Him back as much. Every time I doubted my ability to minister, God humbles and edifies me with these words that “He does not call those who are qualified, He qualifies those whom He calls” and this has led me into a deeper relationship with Him. Amen!
I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. – Ezekiel 36:26