By Francesca Tay, SMU Graduate
Before having a personal relationship with the Lord, my life centred solely around myself. I lived for myself and my thoughts were quite self-centred. All the things I accomplished, be it sports or anything I did well in, I attributed it to my own efforts or pure coincidence. The thought of God never crossed my mind. I drifted away from the faith quite a bit and found attending mass a huge chore and a waste of time. Nonetheless, I would still drag my feet to mass every Sunday. On days where I wasn’t dozing off during mass, I would cross my arms during homily waiting to see if the message would speak to me and it almost always never did. My first 2 years of university life were spent being consumed with studies, CCA (Aquathlon – a biathlon consisting of a swim and run; I was in the executive committee for 3 years) and leading an overseas community service project. There CLEARLY wasn’t time for God. Or so I thought.
Francesca in CUR 2018
Through OYP’s Combined University Retreat (CUR) in 2018, I was extremely blessed to have encountered the Lord very tangibly through my fellow brothers and sisters. They worshipped and spoke about God with such passion that made me question whether I was truly Catholic – whether the God we believed in was the same one. This sparked a burning desire in me to find out more about who this person, Jesus Christ, really was. CUR’18 helped me realize there was a greater purpose in life, a mission, or rather a person, that we are all called to live for, Jesus. Hence, this led me to make some radical changes in my life. I let go of my 4-year long relationship with my then protestant boyfriend, joined Fides and cell group and never missed a single session. Mass suddenly became so interesting that I made time to attend daily weekday masses by trying my best to squeeze in time amidst all my other commitments and go for confessions more regularly. This was a very poignant turnaround for me as by the grace of God, He was moving in me and paving the way for me. The prayer of my heart after my conversion was to be centre my life around Jesus, to seek the kingdom of God above all else and trust that He will give me everything I need. With His very gentle nudges and promptings (I was taking lots of notes during homilies, bringing my journal everywhere I went), I was able to live out my new life in Jesus with conviction. The Holy Spirit gave me so much courage to make these radical changes in my life and gave me the fortitude to pursue the Lord single-heartedly. Today, the prayer of my heart still remains, to centre my life around Jesus and to always want to desire to build my relationship with Him and to fall deeper in love with Him. “For if we received the love which restores meaning to our lives, how can we fail to share that love with others?” – Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium (8)
Another area where Jesus has never failed to move in is my family. I grew up as a cradle catholic, in a family of 4. My brother is 2 years younger than me and we are extremely close. My parents are Sunday Catholics, and our faith is something that’s not really talked about at the dinner table. My brother’s only a Catholic in name and we used to fight a lot when religion was brought up and he would joke very inappropriately. I would get so angry but had to remember to keep my cool and not say anything that would turn him away even more. I had to tip toe around him and be extremely careful with my words. However, slowly but surely, with the desire to share Jesus with my family and the courage from Holy Spirit, I’m learning to not shy away from the topic and to share how Jesus shows up for me over and over again.
I began to share my testimonies openly with them, telling them about Fides sessions, CGs and even practice giving sessions in front of my mum. My brother and I now have very deep conversations about the faith, and it is no longer a taboo topic for us. With such a miraculous shift in openness and vulnerability within the family, I knew it was most definitely not through my mere humanness but through the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit not only empowered my family to be open and receptive to what I had to share, but also empowered me with the gift of courage to proclaim the power of the Lord’s love and goodness boldly. Though, there are still moments where it is difficult to be vulnerable and share deeply, I trust that Jesus is still moving very tangibly in my family.
Choosing Jesus every day is a conscious decision, and it does not mean it will not entail suffering. We are all called to pick up our crosses and follow Jesus. Brothers and sisters, will you allow the Lord to take Lordship over your lives and make room for Him to move?