It all began with growing up in a faith-filled family. Saturday mornings – a time when most kids would be with their parents at the beach or park. Yet, I was in the middle pews at the Novena Church with my parents, attending the Novena Services – having to memorise and say the novena prayers.
Asking the Lord… ‘How can I serve You?’
Reinforcing those Saturday moments was the immersion into regular prayers at set times, retreats and a group of dedicated white-robed men called ‘Christian brothers’. I was in St Patrick’s School. Here I believe I had a first emotional stirring in my guts when a priest shared his life as a missionary on stage to the primary children. It never left me, because the brothers’ caring ways… (and ‘caning’ ways too) drove that stirring deeper. However, it was when I started work that I was moved to ask, Lord, how could I serve you?
God doesn’t waste time when you ask that question! A day or two later, I was around the church when a friend of mine approached me and asked, “Hey Rich, you free right? Come and join the Legion of Mary lah…” Up to this point in time, 23 years old, I was still a timid, sensitive, introvert, afraid of failure, of reprimands, rejections, ridicule. So to this day I could not imagine responding so fearlessly and spontaneously to any invitation except to realise that Our Lady was in that friend’s voice, God inviting me through Our Blessed Mother to serve Him in a new way. So the moulding of my soul began…and it led me to being aware of the needs of not only the Christian community, but society.
At this point, I have to mention that the Lord prepared me for that call through my grandparents, who helped me to love nature. Being in nature helped me to encounter God’s presence, peace and silence whenever I felt disappointment or frustration. The gift of music was also another way I could lift up my tough days and feel His presence.
To surrender to the Lord always
There was no sensational sound of thunder or lightning or a voice from the heavens. Just an aura of continuous quiet assurance and peace that rested on me, as I gradually learnt, when things didn’t go my way, to surrender them to the Lord. He can only increase, when I decrease..
For my life, the continuous dying to oneself has been possible through hearing His Word, sharing it, the way our Blessed Mother lived in the Spirit, rosary meditation, praying in the Spirit, and the example of our priests, our brothers and sisters, past and present, in the ministries I have been involved in over the years.
Maturing in God’s Love
Through time in the community, I was slowly re-educated and grew from my shallow ideas of holiness and ministry. It’s an ongoing process of seeing God’s love even in little things and reflecting it to not only our Christian community but to the whole of society, moving from the spirit of fear and doubt, into being more truth-finding, openhearted, a little more bold, having a compassionate spirit.
The Holy Spirit has taught me the meaning of Psalm 50 “a humble, contrite spirit “He will not spurn, and worship of the Lord is in Spirit and Truth (John 4:24). He urges me to listen to His Word and reflect… it is from there we get to know and love Him more. We are all a work in progress, and the greatest ongoing experience in life we can have is to personally feel His Love opening the door of our hearts to reach out to others. I am thankful and grateful for that.