Most of you, if not all, may have heard or read this popular Chinese novel titled “Journey to the West (XiYouJi)” which was published in the 16th century which gives an extended account of the legendary pilgrimage of the Tang dynasty Buddhist monk named Xuanzang . He traveled to the western regions (Central Asia and India) to obtain Buddhist sacred texts but returned after facing many trials and much suffering. It has since been re-made into TV series as well as movie series whereby in this Ming dynasty novel, a Buddhist monk by the name of Tripitaka (Tang Sanzang) was given this task and was provided with three protectors, Monkey King (Sun Wukong), Pigsy (Zhu Bajie) and Sandy (Sha Wujing), who agreed to help him as an atonement for their sins.
In June and July this year, where the seminary closes for its term break, I had the privilege of making this “pilgrimage’ to the west twice. No, not that I traveled out of Singapore to any western countries but I literally traveled to the west side of Singapore.
Together with my classmate (same cohort) Andre, we did our pastoral at the Gift of Love Home situated in Boon Lay for nearly the whole month of June. Apart from helping during mealtimes and frequently chitchatting and spending time with the residents there, I learnt quite a few things from the Sisters of the Missionaries of Charity.
Well, if you have not heard, the MC Sisters washes the clothes of the residents by hand; yes, no washing machine at all. I had not only grown to appreciate first-hand how much modern technology had advanced over the years but also grown to appreciate how modern technology had made a significant impact on our everyday living. To be honest, I cannot imagine myself washing my own clothes by hand everyday for the rest of my life. The invention of the washing machine has certainly made washing of our clothes so much easier. Therefore, if my life have been made easier without having to personally wash my own clothes, that means I have been given the gift of time since I could do other things while my clothes are being washed by the washing machine.
This then brings me to ask myself, “Then what am I doing with this gifted time? Could I be using it to turn to God or have I chosen to use it to turn to other gods?” I believe God inspired the great inventors to come up with these great technological advancements for the reason that we might be more efficient with chores so that we could use the freed up time to turn to Him and develop a deeper and more intimate relationship with Him. After all, that is what God truly wants of us: an intimate relationship with us!
Early July, I had the privilege once again to make this ‘pilgrimage’ to the west side. This time, together with our new Seminary Rector, Fr Valerian Cheong, and my fellow seminarian brothers, we moved into our new seminary building which is now situated within the premises of St Joseph’s Church (Bukit Timah). We were all really excited to move to our new building while at the same time, dreaded the idea because there was so much prior work to be done before the actual day of the move. We had to account for all the items we had with us whilst at our interim campus at St Teresa’s Church; decide what to bring and what to throw, give away or leave behind; pack everything and finally after the move, to unpack everything from the boxes and repack them into our respective designated areas. The thought of that just simply makes our eyes roll.
But now, close to four weeks living in our new building, we are slowly starting to see the new seminary take shape. When we first moved over, many of our common areas like the Chapel and the dining area and kitchen were still not fully ready to be used. Lots of minor works and touch ups were still being carried out in the first couple of weeks after we moved in. But slowly and surely, by the second week, we were able to use our Chapel for prayers and masses and by the third week, our Tabernacle was finally up and ready to receive Jesus into His rightful place of dwelling. By this time, our dining area was also beginning to take shape and we were finally able to enjoy a meal as a community in here.
We are truly thankful to God who made this possible. For the past two and a half years, we were like the Israelites in Exodus – confused and uncertain in the ‘wilderness’. Just as God had eventually led them through the wilderness into the Promised Land, so have we entered into our Promised Land. I would like to take this opportunity to thank and be grateful to all you out there, benefactors as well as prayer warriors, who have constantly been supporting the seminary. Even in the midst of settling down in this new building, this new premise, this ‘Promised Land’, continue to storm heaven for all us here in formation that we may truly trust the Lord in certain and uncertain times as we continue on this journey which can sometimes be dark and winding.