Every vocation story, while different, at its heart has something in common that unifies them all together. That is, Man’s encounter with something much more than himself, and the perplexing generosity and graciousness of our God. I used to read the lives of saints, vocation stories of our own priests, and I always admired the ‘heroic’ faith that each story possessed. I would look to these individuals’ choices as a shining example of courage and faith. However, it was not until recently, that I realized that the focal point was not the heroic actions in those tales. These people were not the Primary ‘champions’ of their story. Rather, these stories served to reveal the greater action of the Divine. I saw that they were the instruments in which, God, the real Power, worked his plan of salvation. What do I mean? Well, I’ll first share with you a little summary of my story.
I was 16 and Studying in St Patrick’s School. Though I was an Altar Server at my parish, I didn’t really have a relationship with God. Neither did I care much about my faith at all.
I guess it all began here. I was ‘forced’ to attend a talk hosted by the Serra club called the Sierra Eucharistic Congress. There were 2 priests, an exorcist from Rome and a French priest, who were invited to give talks. I remember the 16-year-old me listening to the exorcist and thinking that his stories were cool and interesting. In truth, it sparked something within me and it was as if my mind was opened up to a reality that I previously wasn’t aware of! However, it was the session by the French priest that shook my world… He asked this question, “If we truly say that we believe in Jesus Christ, why do we still live as if God does not truly exist?” Looking back, this was the sentence that pierced the very depths of my soul. It was a seed that was planted. I started to question my entire life, and the way I was living. ‘Who am I really in this true reality of our Lord?’ I needed answers.
I decided immediately to go for daily mass the next morning before school, as spending time in mass and receiving Him in communion was the only thing I knew how to do.
Soon, I was in church every day. I enjoyed this presence of the Lord in my heart. I started to read scripture and quotes by the saints. They filled me with indescribable peace and joy! More importantly, I was falling in love with Christ; all because he loved me first.
On one particular morning, I started to really pay attention to the Priest. It was at that moment that my heart was opened to what a Priest was. Before me, I saw a man of God. One, who gave himself for the Lord and his people. A man who gave up his own life, so that the people would have Life. A great stirring was in my heart. It was as if a voice inside me was gently saying “This is it”, and I felt fire in my heart; a fire of joy and peace. The following week came. I remembered I was overwhelmed. I knew that there was a strong passion in my heart but I wanted to be sure that it was the Lord. During mass, I said in prayer, “All these things have been happening, but what if they are coincidences? If this is really you, you give me a sign so obvious that I cannot deny!” I was expecting something to happen during mass, but there was nothing. So, I carried on with my day thinking that that was the end of it. Later on in school, they called all the Catholic boys to the lecture theatre. Here I was, just laughing around with my friends, and here walks in a Caucasian priest. He introduced himself as Fr Brett Brannen and that he was here to talk to us about the Priesthood and what we should do if we felt called. I felt shell-shocked. I was so overcome with emotion and fire in my heart that I wept silently in my seat as he was speaking. At the end of the talk, he gave us all a book he had written, ‘To Save a Thousand Souls’, and I was blessed enough to relate to him what I had experienced the past weeks. That day, I resolved to do whatever he wished of me to do and thus, it was the beginning of my journey.
I was not always faithful on this journey. It was almost like a rollercoaster, my spiritual life going up and down. There were external trials put before me in the form of family and school struggles but the worst pains were from the battles I fought within myself. Often, I felt as if I was battling 2 desires in me; the desire of my heart which is the Lord’s will, and my own desire to do what I want to do. Many times, choosing the latter left many people hurt; at times to the point of forsaking my relationship with the Lord. My constant choice to sin and the consequences thereafter often left me in despair. Countless times I felt as if I was not even worthy to be ‘discerning’. This selfish, lazy and wretched state of mine.
However, despite these failings, the good Lord never ceased to call me back, never once abandoning me. He paved my path every step of the way. At every difficulty, He solved it through no effort of my own. I remember an occasion where I recalled the sins of my life and the state of my soul and I felt so unworthy. Almost immediately, a quote by Saint Padre Pio flashed before my eyes…’you don’t have to be worthy, you only have to be willing.’ I was flushed with tears.
In fact, these and many other experiences only stirred a sense of mission and purpose to bring that same Joy and Love of the Lord, to all. All my life I was taught to take for myself and think for my own needs. Yet I was empty. I realized that the more of myself I gave to people, the happier I was, because I received more from my Lord! Thus, with that support and grace through the struggle, I am where I am today.
So, it can be seen that even in my life, it is a testament to the persistence of God’s saving grace. I encountered something beyond me, and He saved me. The Lord, the protagonist of my life, has done all the work. He was faithful to me, even in my unfaithfulness. I’m merely an unworthy one who was saved by this infinitely Loving and Generous God. And Isn’t that how it has always been since the dawn of creation? From the chosen people of the Israelites – to the saints and sinners of his church – to you and I today. God calling and reaching out to his people…time and time again, despite our unfaithfulness and unworthiness. What a baffling mystery it is!
Now, as much as this mystery has applied to me, it applies to you too. If my experiences have taught me anything, it is that the Lord has always been there, we just need to make the conscious active effort to be open and see it. And in the face of this Divine generosity, what other response can there be, but to do his will with a heart of gratefulness!
So, as I continue on in this journey ahead, I humbly ask for your prayers. Likewise, you will always be in mine.
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam!