We, the seminarians of St. Francis Xavier Major Seminary, have just finished our one week silent annual retreat under the guidance of Fr. Paul Goh (the assistant parish priest of the Church of St. Vincent de Paul). The things that touched me most during this retreat were: his familiarity with the word of God, his trust and reliance on God, and his humility. God allowed me to encounter Him by seeing Jesus in his priest.
In his introduction to the retreat, Fr. Paul Goh shared with us that when the seminary Father approached him and asked him to be the retreat master for this year he accepted the invitation and took it up as a challenge. He told us that he was only the loudspeaker of God in this retreat; the real retreat master is the Holy Spirit.
Many times during the retreat he told us that he did not know what to talk to us. He shared with us that before each talk he would spend long time in prayer asking God for inspiration and for guidance on the message that God wants him to speak to us. Jokingly he would tell us that all the things he talked were freshly cooked. Because of his trust and dependence on God each time he could share with us enthusiastically and with conviction. And his words were able to touch me.
What he shared with us was full of wisdom based on the scripture and his years of pastoral experience. He was very familiar with the scripture and many of the words that he spoke were from the word of God though he could not point out the exact books, chapters and verses that they are from. His frequent quotations of the word of God and his sharing of his pastoral experiences were like rain drops falling on and refreshing our hearts. “As the rain and snow come down from the heavens and do not return without watering the earth, making it yield and giving growth to provide seed for the sower and bread for the eating, so the word that goes from my mouth does not return to me empty…” (Is 55:10-11) Fr Paul’s quotation of the word of God also spoke a lot to me.
In different occasions, Fr. Paul talked about the importance of humility. He always told us not to be proud, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled but the man who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Lk 18:14) Again on humility he quoted, “My son, be gentle in carrying out your business, and you will be better loved than a lavish giver. The greater you are, the more you should behave humbly, and then you will find favour with the Lord; for great though the power of the Lord is, he accepts the homage of the humble.” (Sir 3:17-20) Fr. Paul also told us that humility will make one sane and approachable. He not only talked about the virtue of humility to us, he lived it out.
He also shared with us the lesson he learnt as a priest by exhorting us, “Always live in the presence of God, prepare a sermon with prayer, read the word of God again and again and soak in it, proclaim the word of God and live out what we proclaim with faith, obedience, and humility.”
Although his talks were not very thematic in content he was very inspiring. On the fourth day of the retreat, I went as usual for the afternoon session. He started to talk. I did not know why but I sensed strongly God’s presence in him. I see Jesus living in him. I said to myself, “God is alive. There are holy priests in Singapore.” I praise God for this wonderful gift. I pray that all of us can be another Christ and live out the God-image in us by growing in Christ-likeness.