I have previously written about my bible study with an Anglican pastor for over ten years, and in the end I converted to Catholicism instead.
To me, whether we are Catholics or Protestants, we worship the same God. It is the same Jesus Christ we encounter.
As I reflect upon how God led me to Catholicism, I am truly amazed at our God – and I give all Glory and Praise to Him and marvel at His perfect timing.
There were many angels who planted the seeds in my conversion, and many of them were not even around to “reap” the harvest.
I grew up in a Taoist family. I remember at a very young age, I will offer incense to the wooden statues on the altar and even developed my own little prayer. I can’t remember the contents now, but I vaguely remember that I looked upon them as something to be fearful of, or something which I can get favors from. And my “prayer” uttered such.
As I grew a little older, I remember how I often went into debate with Christians on intellectual questions such as “If the bible says we are descendants of Adam and Eve, then why are there different races?”
Little did I know that, by questioning the very core of the Christian belief, I was being led by God to explore the faith! I was thinking that I was such an intelligent guy, I could leave my Christian friends dumbfounded! I was so full of pride and self-righteousness. But now I know this was the very initial step, and a necessary one, to bring me to my conversion.
It was my third girlfriend who brought me to Church, and started telling me about Jesus Christ. I went to Church, mainly to tag along, and I was not convinced by the sermons. But now I know, those days that I spent in Church as an outsider, I was almost like “dating God” – to find out more about this “Person” Jesus Christ, and to “check Him out” – if He was suitable for me.
And God knows the way to my heart is through more girls! He related to me by letting me going crazy with another girl (after I left my third girlfriend of course!), who was at that time, searching for her own identity and attending church as well. I was eager to find out what she loved, and if she loved God, I had to know my “competitor”! However, as she was searching her identity, she didn’t stay in the church for long, and I remember I started asking myself – “Am I going to convert to Hinduism because this girl wants to find out more about Hinduism?” It was then I realized, that my search for God was true and sincere. Things had gotten a bit more concrete.
Another friend came along (and you have guessed it, the friend is also a lady, but not my girlfriend) and through her, I went to the Convenant Evangelical Free Church at Bukit Panjang where I was led to say a simple prayer in front of the pastor. He taught me to say “Jesus Christ, I invite you to be my Saviour!” or something like that, and I was told I had become a Christian. And I started to attend the services at Bukit Panjang.
Later, I went to Adam Road Presbyterian Church and attended an Alpha Course there. In the course, I met up with my University senior, and my National Service officer! And I remember telling myself – Oh! This is a sign from God! However, at the end of the Alpha Course, we were supposed to be converted into a “cell group” and continue worship, but somehow, the people inside the Alpha Course went separate ways and the whole thing just collapsed!
Looking back, I now know that the lesson is for me to not jump too quickly to conclusions that “God gave me a sign!” – for we so very often imagine things to be “signs” from God, where in fact, God has other plans for us and will only reveal it to us when we are ready.
In the year 2001, I was invited to the Church of the Holy Cross to attend the Christmas mass, by (yes you have guessed it) another female friend. 12 years later, I got baptized at this very first Catholic Church that I had stepped into. For almost 12 years, I was church-hopping and finally settled down in Wesley Methodist Church from 2007 onwards. I liked Wesley because of the many services available! If I missed church service on Sunday mornings, I could go to Sunday 5pm service, and the last service was at 730pm! Wesley is a mega church – I could blend in without making the commitment to join the ministry nor to ask to be baptized. After a while, the same people I see every Sunday thought I had been baptized anyway and no one ever came to “bother” me. And so I went under the radar for the longest time.
Meanwhile, I met up with my Anglican pastor friend monthly to do bible study. I finished the four Gospels, and managed to read through the entire (protestant) bible once. I have to give credit to my friend for not pressuring me into baptism. He has taught me to be open-minded, and he led by example by going to Buddhist temples and even taking up Buddhist courses, just so he can learn about their faith. However, many misunderstood him and thought he was wavering in his faith. To me, he was the spiritual director who allowed me to grow in my faith.
Then came 2012, when something catastrophic happened at home and I was plunged into the deep dark valley. God sent an angel (yes, she’s a lady!) to tell me about Seven Fountains Spirituality Centre, and I went there in December 2012. Upon coming back, I searched around and found out that Fr. Richards Ambrose was conducting a Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) in January! And I checked with a Catholic Canon lawyer who cleared me to go for RCIA!
It was also around that time that I first went to the Catholic Spirituality Centre at Upper Serangoon Road and spent time in the Perpetual Adoration Chapel. I recalled when I first went in, I wasn’t even able to spell the word “Eucharist”, much less know what it stands for! Little would I know, 3 weeks ago, I was back to the same place to encounter Jesus Christ there.
Now I know that Jesus has plans for me since day one. It was me who couldn’t let go and struggled with God. And it took that long, and at His perfect timing, for me to experience the conversion. Hence, to me, I am open to protestants as much as I am now learning the Catholic faith.
So Why Catholicism?
I praise God and thank our Lord and praise Him for knowing that I am a person who needs structure.Back in the protestant churches, I was able to avoid detection, and there were no accountability, no service and no fellowship. The structure and accountability in the Catholic Church, and the traditions, appeal to me. I am heartened to know that I am following the original church since Jesus’ days!
And of course not forgetting Fr. Richards who jokingly said it was “cheaper” to join the Catholic church. Whereas the mega churches focus on donating more, it is almost a sin to donate more in a Catholic church! There seems to be a mentality that the offering bag is a place to put loose change, and as Fr. Richards aptly put it – thank God that the Singapore government has done away with one dollar note and the two dollar notes are now the smallest denomination available in the wallet! I do know that I have no right whatsoever to judge, and hence in my own little way, I maintain the same offering amount that I have been giving previously to protestant churches.
My father passed away shortly after my baptism, and I was able to hold the joss-sticks to pay my respects to him! That’s another “perk” to joining Catholic church instead of protestant churches! And I can marry another Catholic! See! There are so many “perks” to joining the Catholic Church! Many miracles have happened since the day I have been baptized, and it is not even a year! Suddenly, I realize that I have always been surrounded by Catholics! Praise the Lord that I am given the opportunity to pen my thoughts in this blog started by my secondary school teacher, and whom I have only recently connected back with since the quest to become a Catholic!
I will be going for a pilgrimage in two months’ time, and I look forward to getting closer to our Lord.
So, if anyone were to ask me why Catholicism, my answer is simple – because God has called me! Amen!