One quiet evening, I was watching the lighted fountains outside Vivocity with my son, Evan. At 10 months old, Evan is fascinated with water features, and so were many children other getting themselves soaked by standing over the fountain jets. For one particular child who was with his father, each time the fountain stopped momentarily, his father would exclaim, “Hari, go, go!”, and he would run across the fountain in an attempt to not get wet. There were many times when Hari’s father misestimated the timings, causing Hari to run straight into an active spray. But he never doubted his father. He retained a sense of dependence, trust, and wonder – a child-like simplicity and an unwavering faith.

What is Simple Faith?

I was comforted by the scene and felt that it broadly represented what it means to have  simple faith. What is simple faith? One Saint whom we often turn to for spiritual inspiration  in this regard is St Thérèse of Lisieux. While taking some time to read ‘Story of a Soul’, a publication of the writings and reflections of St Thérèse after her death, I often found the idea of ‘simple faith’ associated with the image of ‘childhood’, and ‘the little way’, which  together form a central construct used in communicating the spiritual journey of St Thérèse. Through reading the book, I found lessons in three domains: love, humility and suffering.

Simple faith and love  

St Thérèse of Lisieux teaches us to recognise God at the centre of our human experience, as love. The little ways of St Thérèse often seem quotidien and mundane, and St Thérèse sometimes reflects on this in seemingly diminutive ways. Yet such love, e.g. smiling at her fellow Carmelite sisters whom she could not get along with, demands a fidelity that is tireless and true. Understanding that our capacity to love ultimately stems from the Father, we can then express it in ways that are more pleasing to God.

Simple faith and humility

The little way was revealed to St Thérèse through Scripture, particularly when Jesus identified from the crowd a little child and said to his disciples, “Unless you be converted and become as little children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.” St Thérèse writes that, “Holiness does not consist in one exercise or another, but in a disposition of the heart which renders us humble and little in the hands of God.”

It was only through reading the writings of St Thérèse that I felt that I understood what true humility entailed. Her image of herself (e.g. a drop of dew, a little flower) as ‘little’ did not stem from poor self-esteem, but a much more profound disposition which enabled St Thérèse to accept weakness and to put herself in the hands of God’s love and mercy. It is about recognising our limitations, looking to God as a little child would from his/her father. Such a child never tires of approaching the Lord.

Simple faith and suffering

Suffering, pain, and death can sometimes dull our consciousness of God’s love. St Thérèse taught me that there is a place for suffering in our relationship with God. The bible is replete with examples of human suffering, and it is often the concept of acceptance, and leaving ourselves in God’s hands, that reunites ourselves with God and is a means by which we can learn how to help others.

From Suffering to Prayer: Mother Mary and the Rosary

One theme that unites Mother Mary and St Thérèse is that of simple faith. Luke 1:26-38 recounts the first joyful mystery, the annunciation. In verse 38, Mother Mary tells the Angel Gabriel, “You see before you the  Lord’s servant, let it happen to me as you have said.” Mother Mary’s fiat, which means “let it be” in Latin, shows us her willing acceptance of the news. Mother Mary completely trusted God, in simple faith, even though the mystery of the Immaculate Conception must have deeply  confounded her at that point in time.

St Thérèse had devotion to Mary and turned to her in prayer as a  mother. One interesting fact I learned was that at the age of 10, St Thérèse was very ill, but experienced a cure through Mary’s intercession. She wrote that the statue of Mother Mary in her bedroom smiled at her, and from that moment she no longer experienced the troubles and anxiety of that period.

My own personal experience has also helped me to see suffering and prayer through the lens  of simple faith. I was particularly in need of God’s Grace when two-month old Evan was sent to the ICU for a significant but unexplained bleeding in the brain. He received emergency treatment, including blood transfusion and held on to his life, while doctors tried to figure out what caused his condition. We spent a week camping on benches outside the ICU, and it was a struggle to make sense of what was happening during those long  nights that were seemingly bleak and void of hope.

The turn of events stripped me of self-reliance and self-centredness, and helped me to see God’s grace work in unexpected ways. On the second day when Evan was admitted into ICU and fighting for his life, we called Fr Henry Siew, who came down promptly the same afternoon to baptise Evan together with anointing of the sick. It was aptly the Feast Day of the Baptism of the Lord. With simple faith, we turned to God and managed to tide through, with the prayers of family and friends, who in turn gathered many others to pray for Evan. It was a humbling experience beyond measure; I truly felt God’s Grace flowing through my community of faith: SOWERS.

One of the key prayers that I turned to was the Rosary. History has many examples of the power of the Rosary seen in its effects, ranging from favours granted to individuals through its devout recitation, to the Battle of Lepanto on 7 Oct 1571 to which the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary and the month of the Rosary can be attributed. Combining simple faith with devotion through the rosary brought comfort, acceptance, and peace. And through God’s abundant blessings, Evan is recovering and rehabilitating well.

Trust in God

Daily life, at times mundane and at other times extraordinary, is woven with aspiration, trials,  setbacks, and success. Life would be immensely difficult if we don’t adopt a sense of  dependence, trust, and wonder in God. The 1970 Beatles song, ‘Let It Be’, has the lines: “When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, ‘Let it  be’. And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me, speaking words of wisdom, ‘Let it be’.” Let’s turn to Mother Mary and St Thérèse of Lisieux for inspiration to have the disposition to do our best and leave the rest to God.

Benjamin Gan
This story was first published on SOWERS newsletter October 2019.
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