Thursday, 19 May 2011

Diocesan Vocation Retreat 2011 - Testimony #2

(Editor's Note: The recent Diocesan Vocation Retreat was held from 6-8 May 2011. Here is a testimony from one of our participants at the Retreat.)

The Diocesan Vocation Retreat “Hungry Sheep Seeking Shepherds” held in 2011 was my first at the St Francis Xavier Major Seminary. Prior to the retreat, I had had a very difficult couple of months that culminated in the ending of my relationship of almost three years. I resented the Lord for taking something so precious away from me when He prompted / called me to come away and discern (seriously) the call to the priesthood. And so I came to the retreat seeking answers and some form of closure from the Lord.

The highlight of the retreat for me came during one of the Eucharistic Adoration sessions (which was then followed by the Sacrament of Reconciliation). During the session, the words of the retreat master struck me – “Do I resent God for calling me to discern the vocation to the priesthood?” I broke down in tears because that was exactly how I was feeling – the pain of ending my relationship in order to discern the call (to the priesthood) without any real tangible end in sight, was really too much for me to bear. Through the counsel of the confessor that love always entails some pain, I was reminded of how much the Lord loves me, even dying for me on the Cross. He also reminded me that the Lord is giving me a greater gift by inviting me to respond to His call. Indeed, as I recall now, the words that the Lord had spoken to the disciples, “Do not be afraid. It is I.” (Jn 6:20) was what I needed to affirm me that it is He who is calling me. It was truly a powerful and intense experience for me, when I “re-encountered” the Lord and came to a realization of His great love for me despite all my failings, sins and unworthiness. On another note, during the sharing sessions, I was continually struck and amazed by the words of one my group members. The main message for me was that having “found and trusted the Lord”, I need to “hang on what He has said”. It was another avenue that the Lord was using to reassure me.

I really cannot thank the Lord enough for His goodness and love for me, especially for giving me such reassuring words and signs; words simply fail me at this point. What I would really say to anyone who is trying to find out what is the Lord’s will for him with regard to his life’s vocation, is to “come and see” for yourself. The Lord will and can never be outdone in generosity, and you can be sure He will answer you at the appropriate moment. You will however, need to respond to His invite first, so what say you?

Clarence, 27 (Church of the Holy Spirit)

Diocesan Vocation Retreat 2011 - Testimony #1

(Editor's Note: The recent Diocesan Vocation Retreat was held from 6-8 May 2011. Here is a testimony from one of our participants at the Retreat.)


The vocation retreat was really very rich and powerful. When I attended it on the first day, I felt like "eating more even when I was full". So I was really glad to be able to experience the three days retreat as I got to experience God's love for real. No words can describe how I felt. It was like joy overflowing my heart. If there is another retreat like this, I do not mind going for it again.

Let me tell you a bit about myself. I am Michael from OLPS. I am a Catholic neophyte, recently baptized last Easter Vigil and I am deaf. God used my own gut feeling to draw me to the Catholic family. I came from a Taoist family. I started to know and believe in Jesus when I was young, studying in a Canossian School for the hearing impaired. Afterwards, I enrolled into Montfort Secondary School where I experienced my own fall due to my ego and immaturity. Back then, I was immature and arrogant. When everything around me went wrong, I found myself in a state of despair and depression. Then, I started to notice a person who keeps calling out to me. Immediately, I recognized it was Jesus who was calling me. Back then, my instincts and gut feeling told me there was something in Jesus. That is when I started to seek Him out. So I took my first RCIY in Risen Christ out of my curiosity. However, I was too concerned with my own difficulties like 'O' levels, family problems and commitments to sports. I remembered that I felt vey "hungry and thirsty" after I left RCIY. After 'O' levels, I made a decision to seek Jesus again. I dropped everything on my hands and made my way to OLPS. I think it was a miracle because I came to OLPS without any directional help or research. It was as if I knew that place even though I had never been there before. Without any obstacle, I spoke to the priest and secretary and took up RCIY again. Gradually, I joined the church ministries like the Charismatic renewal group and Youth ministry. I also visited the other Catholic churches due to my deep interest in Charismatic activities. However, I could not get baptized because my parents objected to it. Otherwise, I would commit the grave sin of disobedience against God and my parents. I had to wait till I reached the age of 21 and then get baptized on my own. But I still felt happy and contented and continued my commitment to Church ministries despite the problems and difficulties like desolation, spiritual dryness, family problems and miscommunication. Because I knew the Catholic Church was the true Church set up by the Lord Jesus a long time ago, I felt attracted to the Eucharist and could not help but simply adore the Most Blessed Sacrament. You can say, it was the Holiness of the Church that drew me to it. Then, last year, I found the chance and took up RCIA, my third attempt. Miraculously, my parents approved me of getting baptized and joining in Holy Communion with the Catholic Church. It had been six years of waiting before I could become one with God. I think it was really God's perfect plan because over six years, I came to know God more. The better I know Jesus, the more ardently will I love Him. If I got baptized six years ago, I would probably become a lost Catholic because I had so little guidance since I am deaf and cannot interact with other people well. I could have left the Catholic Church easily. God used my hunger to draw me to the Catholic Church. I want to thank God for making me deaf so that I found it easier to find God. Through my deafness, God broke my life and found me. I could relate myself to the disciples in Emmaus where they could not recognize Jesus until He explained the scriptures and finally broke the Bread. Really amazing. Although I suffered a lot, I was still happy because through sufferings, I relied on God all the time. Like the Lord Jesus said to St Paul when he was afraid to speak to Jews, "My grace is all you need. For My power is greatest when you are weak." (2 Cor 12:9) St Teresa of Avila said, "The saints rejoiced at injuries and persecutions because in forgiving them, they had something to offer to God when they prayed."

The reason I came to this retreat is that I wanted to know the Holy Will of God for me so that I could achieve it perfectly. If you ask me why I was even thinking of priesthood before the baptism, it was because it came to me. Not I who came to find it. At first, while I was newly active in the Catholic church, I received the advertising card about the Diocesan priesthood. I felt attracted to it because of its purpose in serving. But after a small discussion with friends, I felt it was not for me because I was not baptized yet and am deaf. So I put it away and forgot all about it. Then, one year later, it came to me again. I received the booklet about the priests' testimonies in priesthood. My interest was kindled again after reading it. This time, I became serious about it because I was very sensitive to my passions in my heart if they were from God. So I asked God if He wanted me to become the priest for Him, He must show me the sign as proof to confirm it. While still praying about it, I started to learn sign language for the final year project in Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts. When I was young, my primary school and parents did not allow me to use sign language and forced me to speak because they wanted me to mix with the world. It was very difficult for me because I did not have enough practice to speak and had very little training. Back then, English was the only accent taught in the Canossian School for the hearing impaired. Anyway, I was learning sign language for three months when I met my two interpreters. They brought me to the Singapore Catholic Deaf Community where I found my true calling. Over there, a deaf senior woman came to me and signed, "Young man, we had a very good hearing priest but unfortunately, he was old and sick, already down with diabetes. He was our spiritual director and is now staying in Canada. And the president of the deaf community is the potential candidate but he cannot become the priest because he is married. Both are hoping and looking for a deaf man to become a priest to serve our deaf world." I was astonished to the extent that my heart kept stirring up.

Father William Goh's session assured me that my intention for the priesthood was proper and correct because I intended to sacrifice my life for God as the purpose of my choice in priesthood. Priesthood is the gift to all mankind and is not meant for the selfish purpose. He taught that the priesthood is really mysterious because we are not worthy since we are sinners yet we can become priests through God's grace. It is not that priests themselves are qualified just because they are holy. It's God's grace given to them. We were not in the retreat by chance and coincidence. It's that God chose us. Father Alex's session taught me that God loves us so much that He chose us. Take Saint Peter for example, as he said. Even though Saint Peter was violent, loud-mouthed and low educated, Jesus chose him as the Rock of the Catholic Church. Why is it so since he was such a terrible candidate? It is because God loves him so much. Father William said that we do not need to be talented, smart, powerful, famous and strong to become priests except the holiness which is the effect of the Church. Pope John Paul II said that the baptised are called to holiness. What surprised me is that Father William taught that we can grow holy through ministries serving the people. I thought we only grow holy in prayer and mediating on the Word of God. He taught that holiness is to be one with yourself, God and other people. It is not a very difficult life. Actually, it makes life easier. He taught that we must continue to develop our spirituality and deepen our prayer life. We must love God with all our heart, mind and strength and pray for the gift of vocation. Father Alex taught that we must be honest in our discernment process. Otherwise, we cannot find our true vocation. My passion was heightened afterwards. I wanted to start journeying with my spiritual director to confirm my calling soon. Actually, I was very keen in the Jesuits because of their very deep spiritual life. I believe that once we know our deepest desire of our hearts, then we will know our true calling and true vocation from God. God is also present in the deepest place of our hearts. Jesuits are well known for their spirituality, strict lifestyle and intellect. But I felt drawn to Diocesan priesthood more because of my desire to serve people, especially deaf people and bringing them to God was stronger rather than focusing on my own developments. I see the priesthood as the true love of God because through sacraments, we get connected to God and join in Holy Communion with Him. Without priests, there would not be the Catholic Church today. Holiness is the fruit of love. I remembered Archbishop Nicholas Chia's teaching when he wrote the book, "Journey through RCIA". He taught that we have three great virtues: Faith, Hope and Love. Love is the greatest among three virtues because Faith gives way to eternal life and Hope gives way to the Vision of what we believe. But Love keeps growing forever and ever. There is no end of Love. It was really a wise teaching of Archbishop Nicholas Chia.

What had a deep impact on me? It's the Hourly Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament in the chapel. I always love adoring the Blessed Sacrament because through faith I can see the Lord Jesus in it. My heart was stirring up excitedly when He asked us whether we really loved Him and then asked us to feed His sheep. It was really a great honor we received because St Therese of Lisieux said, "The greatest honor God can do a soul is not to give it much but to ask much of it." Jesus asked me, "Michael, do you love Me? Will you feed My sheep?" And He told me, "You're my wonderful child. I made you special so you can reach out to so many more people whom other priests cannot reach out to. You are wonderfully made. The road ahead of you will not be easy because you are destined for greater tasks than anyone here in this room. You will be their light in time to come." I felt like my heart was bursting out in an explosion and I cried like a crybaby. Another thing that had a deep impact on me was the video: "Fishers of men". What captured my attention was the story of how a priest inspired a young boy to become a priest. This is the holiness, the effect of the Church as Father William taught. Father William also taught that people only believe in what we do. Not what we say. If we want to change, we must change our lives. As we change our lives, we will change other people too. And the dying man whom the priest blessed, challenged my thoughts. There are many people who need priests in the world. What if they die suddenly and there is no priest around to deliver them to Heaven? What if they die without knowing God? Like Father William's situation when he was a young priest. He thought many people knew how to pray but in fact they did not know. So he taught them how to pray. As a result, they grew in their relationship with God. It kept ringing out to me because I knew many many many deaf people who do not know how to connect to God since they have very little guidance. It applies to other unfortunate people too. Saint Felix Rougier said, "The thermometer of faith depends on the number of the religious people and priests."

After the retreat, I knew where I am going. But I first want to obey the Catholic church by living my Catholic faith for three years as a Catholic neophyte in order to fulfill Canon Law's requirements. If I do not obey it, how can I obey God, Pope Benedict XVI, Archbishop Nicholas Chia and the senior priests? Even though it will be harder for me to become a priest, I still want to be a priest. Even if it costs my life, I still want to become a priest because I am already dead to myself and fully alive in the Lord Jesus Christ. So my life all belongs to God alone. I will certainly make a lot of efforts to learn how to speak for the sake of Christ. Then, I will be able to serve all kinds of people and bring them to the Lord Jesus Christ, our true God, our true King and our true Saviour.

Now, my only wish is that the Lord Jesus takes control of all my life and uses me for whatever He wants and teaches me how to become the Saint. Then, I will be able to produce fruits in Jesus, giving glory to our Abba Father. Everyone in the world will know how much I love the Lord Jesus.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, please look at the Tabernacle and applause to Lord Jesus for He deserves all our praise, honor, glory and reverence. Thank you for listening to my story.

Best regards and God bless,

Michael Gabriel Raphael Goo, OLPS

Monday, 16 May 2011

Surprise Party

“Do you trust me?”

This seems to be the question God continues to ask me throughout my vocation discernment journey.

If you’ve ever planned a surprise party for someone, especially someone truly important and special to you, you know you would create the best possible plan ever and make the most amazing party arrangements just to give that person the time of his life. And once you’ve prepared everything, just before you lead that special someone to your surprise party, you would blindfold him, and whisper into his ear, “Do you trust me?”

God did that to me 4 years ago. That was a time when I had a secure and promising career in a top accounting firm, and was blessed with a beautiful, Christ-loving girlfriend who was everything I ever wanted in a lifetime partner for marriage. I thought I had everything I could ever ask for. But God knew better. With a grin on His face, He blindfolded me and prompted me to attend my first Diocesan Vocation Retreat. Initially, I was apprehensive, especially when I couldn’t see what was ahead of me. Then God whispered into my ear, “Do you trust me?”

During the retreat, God then lifted up my blindfold a little, and gave me a sneak preview of what was ahead of me. As I learnt more about the priesthood, my eyes were opened to a whole new way of life, one where I was actually attracted and inspired to boldly lay down my life not just for my spouse, but for the entire Church! Of course, under the blindfold, I was also crying profusely at the thought of having to leave and disappoint my girlfriend then. But God whispered into my ear, “Do you trust me?”

4 years later, I can now share this testimony only because I answered, “Yes!” And I’m here to tell you, that God’s vocation for me has so far been the most amazing surprise party of my life! Throughout my party, one pleasant surprise after another keeps coming up, and the Party Planner, God Himself, has shown that He can never be outdone in faithfulness, generosity, and surprises!

Firstly, every struggle, pain, obstacle and worry that I had to deal with in responding to my call, was taken care of one after another over time. My ex-girlfriend was blessed with another God-loving man; my family has been well taken care of; and my resentment and jealousy towards couples have been healed. All of them now join me in my party with their full support and blessing, and that has meant the world to me.

Secondly, never did I imagine how much closer I could get in my relationship with God. The more I trusted Him, the more the Lord revealed Himself to me in ways so personal and deep that it has brought me tears of joy many times. Through this relationship, I no longer need to see what is ahead of me with my eyes, but have learnt to let the Lord take me by the hand, and simply see the Lord’s providence, goodness and love with my heart, trusting Him to lead me every step of the way to the greater things that lie ahead of me.

Thirdly, I have met so many people whom God has brought into my party, and have witnessed and been affirmed of how the Lord has been using me to make such a deep impact in their lives that I am just astounded and filled with so much joy when I see these people filled with the same joy and love that I have experienced from the Lord!

Our God-given vocation in life is not something to be fearful of. Whether priesthood, religious life, marriage, or single life, all these vocations are meant to be a party! - a celebration of God’s love for us! But it is not just a celebration for us alone. Our vocation also affects the lives of many out there whom God has brought into our surprise party, people waiting for us to answer our call and appear at our own surprise party, so that they too can receive blessings and love and joy from God through the living out of our own vocation. Our one choice whether to trust in the Lord’s plan for us, can determine a lifelong celebration for thousands, including ourselves, or turn us into a party pooper, and leave many disappointed and deprived of a celebration.

Today, I pray for those of you who have yet to find your vocation in life, or may already have some promptings but are still fearful of proceeding blindfolded. Be assured that God has already made all the necessary and awesome preparations for your surprise party. On top of that, He has brought in all the necessary people who shall support you in your journey, as well as all the people whom He wishes to bless through you. God is not asking you to jump off a cliff blindfolded. He only asks that you trust Him one small step at a time. All you need to do, to enter into the biggest party of your life, is let the Lord blindfold you and take you by the hand, and respond positively to Him when He whispers into your ear, “My Beloved, do you trust me?”