This is not simply a story about how I entered the seminary. Rather, this is a story about God’s goodness, His presence amongst us today, expressed through my life experiences; a testament to His Love and His desire to reach all of us.
Saved at 16
Up to the age of 16, I did not really have a relationship with God. Though I was an altar server and a student of St Patrick’s School, I did not care much about my faith.
One day, I was ‘forced’ to attend a talk called the Sierra Eucharistic Congress. There were two priests, an exorcist from Rome and a French priest, who were invited to give talks. I remember the 16-year-old me thinking that the exorcist’s stories were cool and interesting.
In truth, it sparked something within me and it was as if my mind was opened to a reality that I previously was not 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?”
That sentence pierced the very depths of my soul. 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 to go for daily mass before school, as spending time at mass and receiving Him in communion was the only thing I knew how to do.
Soon, I was in church every day. I enjoyed the 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.
Awakening of My Heart
One particular morning, I started to really pay attention to the priest. It was at that moment that my heart 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 people would have Life.
A great stirring began 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, 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 prayed, “All these things have been happening, but what if they are coincidences? If this is really you, give me a sign so obvious that I cannot deny!” I expected 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, all the Catholic boys were called to the lecture theatre. I went there laughing with my friends; then in walked a Caucasian priest. He introduced himself as Fr Brett Brannen and that he was there to talk to us about the priesthood and what we should do if we felt called.
I was shell-shocked. I was so overcome with emotion and fire in my heart that I wept silently in my seat as he spoke.
At the end of the talk, he gave us all a book he had written, ‘To Save a Thousand Souls’, and I was blessed to relate to him what I had experienced over the past weeks. That day, I resolved to do whatever he wished of me to do and that was the beginning of my discernment journey.
Battling Two Desires
I was not always faithful in 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 two desires; the desire of my heart which is the Lord’s will, and my own desire to do what I wanted. 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’.
He Paved My Every Step
Despite these failings, the good Lord never ceased to call me back, never once did He abandon me. He paved my every step. At every difficulty, He solved it through no effort of my own.
Fast forward to 2021 … Now, I am in my fourth year of seminary formation. Looking back, there is so much to be grateful for.
The Lord continues to mould me in His hands. At times, the moulding process was difficult and painful. The toughest challenges arise when I am called to come into contact with myself, having to accept not only my strengths, but face my weaknesses head on; because it is there that the Lord is present in the healing and moulding process.
I find that when I cooperate with the graces in the challenges faced, I am gently and courageously invited to deepen the reality of discipleship, to die to myself and follow in His footsteps.
I am also deeply blessed to have supportive formators and a community of brothers on this journey. Community life serves not only to help me grow as a person, but gives me the chance to live out the true charity that I so believe and preach about; the charity which at times requires you to die to yourself to help, or even be humble to accept help.
I firmly believe that the truest and the best way to evangelise is when the people around me witness the Love of God expressed in community; bringing to fulfilment the words of Jesus, “It is by your love for one another, that everyone will recognise you as my disciples.” – John 13:35.
Truth be told, I have no idea if I will indeed be ordained as a priest. However, I am convinced where I am now is where I am supposed to be, and that I am called to be a disciple here and now. My only desire is that I continue to grow in humility and take after the heart of our Lord Jesus Christ, no matter where I am.
My prayer for the Catholic Church’s 200th anniversary
Dearest Father, I thank you for all the graces which you have gratuitously blessed us with, through the seeds of faith and the sacrifices made by the countless missionaries that came to our shore. I thank you for that same spirit which continued on in the many Catholics who have gone before me. I humbly pray for all of us today, in a world that so desperately needs your Fatherhood, that you raise amongst us living witnesses that simply embody the Truth and Love which you stand for. I pray for the renewal of the priesthood, the renewal of the family life, and a renewal of that missionary zeal in our hearts, only made possible through a sincere experience of your Love. Amen!